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Telecommunications Week Honors Public Safety Dispatchers

By Staff | Apr 15, 2008

The term “Public Safety” usually elicits thoughts of firefighters, law enforcement officers and Emergency Medical Technicians. However, there is one other very vital sector in the Public Safety aspect of society that is too often overlooked.

The week of April 13-19 is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, and local officials are recognizing local public safety communications operators for their dedication and professionalism. The national observance of Telecommunications Week is designed to recognize the individuals who answer routine calls for information or stressful 9-1-1 calls for help in emergencies, and provide the calming voice on the other end of a frantic telephone call for help.

The Palo Alto County Communications Center is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year by fully certified, trained professionals. Frank Loring, Sharon Mundus, Rhanah Becknal and Sheryl Rehm are the full-time operators, and along with part-time operators Mary Jane Soenen, Becky Goeders and Monica Gunn, are the public’s first contacts with the Public Safety Communications system in Palo Alto County. When a citizen dials 9-1-1 for emergency assistance of any type, one of these individuals will answer the phone and contact the appropriate responding agency, while gathering as much information about the situation as is possible from the caller.

All four of the Palo Alto County Hospital Ambulance Units, based in West Bend, Ruthven, Graettinger and Emmetsburg, as well as the First Responder units in Mallard and Ayrshire are dispatched through the Communications Center. The Fire Departments in Emmetsburg, Cylinder, Rodman, West Bend, Mallard, Ayrshire, Ruthven and Graettinger are all dispatched from the Communications Center. All law enforcement, including the Emmetsburg and West Bend Police Departments, along with the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office, receive dispatch information from the Communications Center Operators, along with Palo Alto County Emergency Management.

The local Communications Center also has contact with the Iowa State Patrol, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Palo Alto County Secondary Road Department and other neighboring counties as well.

Like their job title indicates, the primary duty of a telecommunications operator is to answer calls for service and assistance. However, dispatchers also operate the county’s network of storm warning sirens and alerting systems and operate the local access terminal to the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, a computer network that connects law enforcement agencies across North America as well as the world. Using the computer network, local operators can check on drivers’ license records in any state, or check for warrants on any individual stopped by local officers.

When an emergency call is received at the Palo Alto County Communications Center, the telecommunications operator attempts to obtain as much information as they can from the caller, including accurate directions, number and type of injuries or similar information. The operator uses that information to determine what type of assistance is needed: fire department, emergency medical services or law enforcement officers and makes the appropriate notifications.

The staffs of the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office, Emmetsburg Police Department, West Bend Police Department and Palo Alto County Emergency Management Agency, along with the volunteer firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians and First Responders of Palo Alto County all wish to thank and praise the Palo Alto County Communications Center operators for their dedication to duty and professionalism day in and day out.