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Celebrate National Public Safety Telecommunications Week – April 9-15, 2017

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911 Dispatchers, Some of the most important people you will never see.

While there are many visible functions of the Sheriff’s Office in Boise County and other law enforcement agencies across the nation, one of the often overlooked, and always underappreciated functions within the office is the 911 dispatch center.

While a patrol deputy gets to respond firsthand to each of the emergencies and calls to service, gets to see the flames of a forest fire, the response to an emergency with lights flashing, the face of parents reunited with a lost child, the change from a frantic, angry, upset, panicked (insert any number of imaginable emotions / reactions) to the calm and thankful member of the public, or the satisfaction of a project seen to completion, be it in court or resulting in whatever outcome, the dispatcher never gets to experience any of this.

They sit in a darkened roomed, lit by a multitude of computer screens with an amount and complexity of functions that would intimidate a seasoned fighter pilot.  Dispatchers have to take phone calls ranging from the ridiculous to the tragic and massively urgent, all the while remaining the calming voice of reason.  They have to deal with panicked citizens as loved ones, be it children, parents or friends are hurt and they wait the extended amounts of time for fire, emergency medical technicians or law enforcement, to respond to in our county.  They have to talk to cranky law enforcement officers, tired fire fighters and intoxicated citizens. They have to answer each of these calls simultaneously while also answering the innocuous calls for the mundane, and maintain the same demeanor of calm and professionalism.

  While each of these phone calls are happening, our dispatchers are also answering the radio calls for officers from a minimum of six law enforcement agencies, both state and federal, dispatching all eight of our volunteer fire departments and all of it on twelve mountain top repeaters.  All of the repeaters have to be monitored individually, each repeater switched to individually and each officer responded to on the corresponding repeater.  Each call’s information is captured and recorded in a computer aided dispatch system and then routed appropriately, be it fire, ambulance or law enforcement.  Dispatch also handles arrest warrant entry as well as no contact orders and protection orders.  Each of these documents have to be entered into a national system and dispatch is the contact for every other law enforcement agency in the nation in reference to each of the documents entered into the system.

Often as not, each of the incidents, be it on the phone, the radio or a deputy rushing into the dispatch center itself, can all be life and death situations.  The amount of competence required to gather and distribute all of the information needed for each incident, let alone multiple incidents in a day, is staggering.  One mistake and people can die, property can be lost and officers can be further endangered.  Dispatchers have to interview and glean information from panicked people, translate it into something sensible, and relay it to officers that have a thousand questions that there is no way the dispatcher can answer.  They have to be able to run criminal background checks, check driver’s licenses, warrants, license plates and social media intelligence all at once.  They have to be able to be a weather prognosticator, psychologist, priest, counselor, lawyer, teacher and secretary to everyone involved on a daily basis.  All the while not missing a single detail.

Our Boise County dispatchers do all of this, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, missing weekends, holidays, days in general, family events and functions, and company in general as they can, and often do, work entire shifts without seeing anyone but the next dispatcher coming in to relieve them of their shift.  All of this only so they can come back less than twelve hours later to do it all over again.

  Given the enormity of the public safety systems, training, personnel and equipment that is reliant on our dispatchers, coupled with the lack of recognition and appreciation for a literally unrecognized position, please join me in thanking our amazing dispatchers in Boise County for their service and in recognition of all public telecommunications experts during this week of National Public Safety Telecommunications week.

Jim Kaczmarek

Boise County Sheriff