Latest News

Telecommunicators week honors the voices of 9-1-1 centers

Their faces are never seen, but their voices are always heard.  When you are panicking, they remain calm.  They are the unseen heroes of first-responder agencies, the telecommunicators.

Public safety telecommunicators, sometimes known as emergency dispatchers, are being recognized this week during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines public safety telecommunicators as those who operate communication systems at 9-1-1 and other emergency centers, gather information from callers regarding public safety matters, then relay that information to appropriate emergency response personnel to respond.  They also may offer aid or instructions to callers at times. 

When you think about it, telecommunicators are really the “first” first responders.  The first voices you hear when you need help in an emergency and some of the only people who are guaranteed to answer your call when you need the police, fire department, or emergency medical services.

“They are the first line of contact.  We take all phone calls in Monongalia County that require emergency response for police, fire and EMS,” said Brad Wilson, assistant director of Monongalia County Emergency Management Agency (MECCA).  “Our telecommunicators are the first ones that people talk to.  We then dispatch them to the agencies we would have respond to the residence.”

Telecommunicators at MECCA, which is the agency that handles all emergency and non-emergency phone calls in Monongalia County, are responsible for taking calls from the public, determining which services are needed and then dispatching appropriate units from the county’s six police departments, 14 fire departments and three EMS services.

According to Wilson, MECCA currently employs 27 telecommunicators who all work hard to help keep the community safe 24 hours a day.

“We are really proud of them, the job that they do.  They all do a good job,” he said.  “It’s high stress – this job is not for everybody.  So they definitely have a lot of burden on their shoulders and they do very good at it.”

If you have an emergency and need to call 9-1-1 for help, Wilson said there are a few things you can do that will make the process easier for the telecommunicator to get services to you more quickly.

“Try to remain calm on the phone. Listen to what the telecommunicator is asking.  Answer the questions we ask you and try not to get frustrated,” he said.  “Even though it might seem like a lot of questions, these questions are very important to us getting you the right help in a timely manner.”

Morgantown Police Chief Eric Powell said telecommunications personnel are very important to not only the mission of his department, but the overall safety of the community.

“These men and women are the first to answer a call for help day and night. They help connect those in need to emergency care or other valuable resources,” he said.  “They are the heroes behind the scenes and we thank them for their hard work and dedication.”