|At the WCSO, we appreciate the work of our dispatcher|
Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office Communications Officers are tucked away in the back end of the Emergency Operations Center, but their remote location from the administrative offices does not mean they are not an important link for Wakulla County law enforcement.
The predominately female dispatch unit is a key component for public safety in the county as the unit links law enforcement, fire protection and emergency medical services to the citizens who need the assistance.
They are the conduit to the emergency medical services when someone calls and is frightened that a relative has stopped breathing or is injured. They must also be prepared to direct EMS and firefighters to the proper location to address the emergencies.
Wakulla County Emergency Management Director Scott Nelson supervises the mostly female crew which also includes dispatcher Charlie Odom and Lt. Brad Taylor.
“They find out what is needed,” added Nelson. “Even with the medical and fire calls, they are the first touch the citizen receives.”
Due to the size of Wakulla County, many of the dispatchers know family involved with the incoming 911 calls and must still remain calm and handle the call professionally.
The 911 phone calls have a different ring when compared to the normal dispatch calls so communications officers can jump on them quickly even if they are handling an administrative call.
“It is a stressful job and a rewarding job because you are helping people,” added Nelson. “They do a good job and they don’t get enough appreciation for what they do.”
Lt. Taylor said the dispatchers not only do a good job but work in a family atmosphere. Lt. Taylor will jump in and assist in the dispatch office at times when call numbers soar. “The more chaotic the room gets the more efficient it gets,” he said.
On this day shift Karen Kemp and Taylor Saladin were wearing the headsets and sitting in front of the communications equipment.
Saladin has law enforcement in her blood as well as her mother is a deputy on one of the road patrol crews. “I like never knowing what to expect,” she said. “But traffic crashes involving motorcycles upset me the most because I like to ride motorcycles. Those cases and cases involving missing little children are most upsetting.”
Homicide cases are the most difficult along with water involved cases, added Kemp. “I guess it is because it is more difficult to get a deputy out to someone on the water. And I think it is because I am not a great swimmer so it has an impact on me.”
“The women all get along and we do things together socially outside of work,” added Kemp.
Director Nelson has another piece of the communications pie down the hall in the other direction from the dispatch office. The E-911 office and Rachel Love and her staff play a part in making sure all of the high-tech communications equipment is working properly. The Enhanced-911 telecommunications system automatically associates a physical address with the calling party’s telephone number and routes the call to the most appropriate Public Safety Answering Point. In addition, E-911 is responsible for maintaining the Master Street Address Guide and ensuring data base accuracy and providing dispatchers with the means to direct law enforcement, firefighters and EMS personnel to the correct address quickly and efficiently.
Three things come through to Director Nelson when it comes to communications. “They do a good job, they are very dedicated and there is no way we could ever pay them what they are worth,” he concluded.