National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week is celebrated every year the second full week of April. It is to honor the men and women who work as dispatchers or 9-1-1 operators and the endless hours of service they provide to the residents of our county. This year's week of appreciation began April 11 and will continue until April 17.
"The men and women who serve as public safety telecommunicators, such as 9-1-1 operators or dispatchers are dedicated to saving lives. They respond to Texans in times of great need and their specialized skills and calm, caring presence are invaluable to the Lone Star State," said Texas Governor Rick Perry. "The Commission on State Emergency Communications works with local and state governments to ensure reliable access to emergency telecommunications services. To highlight the invaluable role of public safety telecommunicators, the commission designates a week in April for an awareness campaign and at this time I encourage all Texans to extend their appreciation to public safety telecommunicators. Their diligent efforts ensure that help is on the way when we need it most," added Perry.
At the Sweetwater Police Department, their are currently only three full time communications officers, Carla Hebert, Yolanda Saddler and Cory Stroman. Only one dispatcher is available per shift and they not only take each 9-1-1 call that comes in from the entire City of Sweetwater, they also transfer those calls to the appropriate entity, act as dispatchers and take non-emergency calls that come into the station. On average, the Sweetwater Police Department receives an average of at least 50 calls each day.
"They're great," said Sweetwater Chief of Police Jim Kelley. "Their job is a difficult, stressful position and the Sweetwater Police Department's operators are excellent at what they do. Not only are they charged with 9-1-1 duties, they also dispatch radio communication, take non emergency phone calls and are the ones that assist people who come through our front door. It is definitely a position that stresses multi-tasking and it takes a very special person to be able to do this job. We are so fortunate that we have people that do this job so well."
The Sweetwater Police Department is the Nolan County Public Safety Answering Point. The department receives 9-1-1 calls from Sweetwater, Roscoe, Blackwell, Maryneal, Lake Sweetwater and sometimes receives cell from neighboring counties in conjunction with cell tower locations. "The calls come to us and we route it to another agency when needed," said Kelley. "A person who does this job needs to be familiar with the entire county and immediate surrounding counties. It is a tough and challenging job."
Nolan County Sheriff David Warren also appreciates the communications personnel at the Nolan County Sheriff's Office. "My communications personnel wear many hats and are prime examples of what the term “multi-tasking” is all about. Our employees have to perform the same function as regular telecommunicators along with a large laundry list of other duties.
Brenda Watts serves as the agency’s Terminal Agency Coordinator (TAC) and is the designated Associate Trainer for TCIC/NCIC training. (Texas Crime Information Center/National Crime Information Center).
"We have a number of employees trained in telecommunications and have seven assigned to those duties on a regular basis with Sergeant Jerry Watts and Jail Administrator Brenda Watts supervising those employees," said Warren. "Currently those assigned to that area are Marsha Harris, Rhonda Hall, Stacy Villanueva, Lucile Taylor, Daniel King, Will Barnett and Landon King."
"Nolan County telecommunications personnel must be able to work under immense pressure and stress as they multi-task a number of other duties as well. Besides their telecommunications duties, they also book in all prisoners coming into the jail, answer all regular administrative phone lines, deal with questions from citizens, attorneys, bondsmen, jail visitors, other courthouse personnel and handle all process coming into the sheriff’s office such as warrants, civil papers, court judgments, etc." said Warren. "Our telecommunications personnel handle dispatch duties for the Nolan County Sheriff’s Office, local Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, Roscoe Police Department, local Texas Game Warden, Union Pacific Railroad Police and BNSF Special Agent, and of course are involved with Sweetwater Police and Fire responders in many situations, especially when it involves a large fire out in the county or a big vehicle accident on the interstate."
“I must commend the men and women of my agency that perform these telecommunications duties. They work under conditions, due to their myriad of other duties that most other telecommunicators never have to endure. They are truly the lifeline for many area peace officers as well as the public that are victims of crime, accident or disaster. I am proud of each and every one of them.”
When you dial 9-1-1:
• Speak calmly and clearly.
• Give your location first, then your name and telephone number.
• Describe the nature of the emergency.
• Be ready to answer questions and/or follow instructions from the call taker.
• If you get disconnected, dial 9-1-1 again.
• Stay on the line until the call taker tells you to hang up.
Dialing 9-1-1 is the quickest possible way for you to reach emergency responders including the police or sheriff, fire department or ambulance.
• You should use 9-1-1 in situations such as serious injury, medical emergencies, anytime you see a fire or smell smoke when not appropriate, or if you see suspicious activities or persons in your neighborhood.
Did you know?
• If, for any reason, you are unable to speak into the phone, you may feel more secure knowing that 9-1-1 call takers can usually locate you because your address and telephone number are displayed on their equipment when you call using landline phones. However, when using a cell phone, the 9-1-1 call taker may not know where you are or what the problem is unless you are able to convey that information to them.
9-1-1 is always a free call from home, car phone, cell phone, or pay phones with dial tones.
• In addition, all 9-1-1 answering points are equipped to take calls from deaf or hearing/speech impaired callers using TTY’s. Call takers also utilize Language Line to assist non-English speaking residents in communicating vital information concerning emergencies.