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County recognizes work of telecommunicators

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Steve Cody, shift supervisor, talks about the importance of National Public Safety Telecommunications Week during an interview on Monday.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

When calling for help in an emergency, most people’s first contact is not with a police officer or firefighter. That calm, reassuring voice on the line is that of a telecommunicator.

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week runs through Saturday and Pitt County Emergency Management officials marked the occasion with a special luncheon on Monday to recognize Pitt County’s dispatchers.

“This is an exciting time for Pitt County Emergency Management and our telecommunications division,” Pitt County’s Interim Emergency Management Director James McArthur said. “We have a really good staff that work very hard to serve our citizens kind of behind the scenes.”

Telecommunicators are the people who send police cars, fire trucks and ambulances out into the street, McArthur said. “They monitor them while they are out there and they really keep everything organized,” he said.

Pitt County 911 routinely receives more than 100,000 calls per year, and serves as the public safety answering point for Pitt County, with nearly 160,000 administrative and 911 calls answered in 2018, according to a news release.  

The Pitt County 911 Communications Center is tasked with answering and processing all 911 calls placed in Pitt County and dispatching appropriate agencies to the reported emergencies.

Steve Cody, a shift supervisor, oversees quality control at the E-911 center and has been in the business 20 years.  

Cody said his job is to monitor what people in the call center do and rate their calls to make sure employees are following the set protocols.  

Cody emphasized that telecommunicators often receive little recognition.

“For a long time you were left in the shadows. Now we get to highlight what the people (who) are answering the phones and sending help do,” Cody said.  “I love that (Pitt County) has taken and shown what 911 does.” 

Cody noted that some people call 911 in non-emergency situations.

“People call 911 when it’s not necessary,” he said. “If your lights go out, 911 is not who you call.”

The most rewarding part of being a telecommunicator for Cody and his colleagues is helping people, he said.    

“Every day that these people come into work, they’re making a difference in somebody’s life,” Cody said.  

Helping people requires a lot of patience and an ability to think on your feet, he said. 

“People don’t realize what we do — the information we take, we have to get that information fast, have to get it out fast, we don’t have time to think about it,” Cody said. “You have to do something, you have to do it right now and you have to do it right.”

When callers get hysterical and scream, cry and yell, telecommunicators follow protocols to help them focus on getting the job done while also keeping their emotions at bay, Cody said.  

“We have the protocols in place and it helps us go where we need to go,” he said. “The other thing is you have to put that stuff aside. You cannot get wrapped up in the emotions. It’s hard but that’s what we do.”

McArthur is hopeful that citizens will recognize and remember the hard work 911 dispatchers do and said this week is an effort to help with that.  

“We’re going to take this week and we’re going to celebrate our telecommunicators, we’re going to try to showcase these folks and help the citizens to really understand what they do and how important they are,” McArthur said.

Pitt County’s public information office also showcased its award-winning emergency management video. The video titled “Anatomy of An Emergency Call” was shown during the event and can be found on the Pitt County YouTube channel.

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566

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