911 dispatchers at the Emergency Communication Center are heroes unseen, but heard.
“It’s definitely a job that you have to have a certain mindset for,” emergency dispatcher, Damairus Reddick said.
Dispatchers are a critical component of keeping the public safe.
Though most aren’t recognized as first responders, they are the first people to help you in an emergency.
“We are the first line of communication that those people have,” emergency dispatcher Megan Vanbeek said. “They don’t call directly to a police officer, to a firefighter and AMT.”
No day is the same and some are very stressful.
“The dispatchers hear everything from a baby not breathing or taking a shooting call or a stabbing call,” Emergency Communication Center manager, David Tuttle said.
Vanbeek mentioned answering the phone call of a distressed mother whose baby was not breathing.
Reddick has also experienced nerve racking calls from members of the community.
“I received a call, the caller said the address and ‘I’m getting ready to shoot myself’ and hung up,” Reddick said. “…After calling him back I was able to calm him down and talk to him and get everything rectified”
Regardless of the situation these men and women must stay calm.
“Not being calm can be the difference between calming someone else down and fixing the situation or just adding to the stress and making things worse,” Reddick said.
While dispatchers are empathetic to the callers, they said their feelings must be put to the side to quickly and appropriately handle the issue.
“At that moment it’s not about my feelings, it’s about helping them to the best of my ability and making sure that they feel well taken care of until someone can get there on the scene and help them,” Vanbeek said.
“Even though the person is crying on the other end and you can feel the fear or the stress in their voice you have to detach yourself and let them know I’m trying to help you…,” Reddick said.
Dispatchers said although it can be a difficult position it’s rewarding nonetheless.
“It’s a crazy world we live in and there are things going on and I rather be part of the solution and not just part of the problem,” Reddick said.
The Emergency Communication Center in downtown Peoria along with centers nationwide are understaffed.
Tuttle said about 98.4% of the time the center answers 911 calls in five seconds or less.
He believes to continue progressively serving the community without overloading current staff, new hires would be ideal.
Tuttle encourages those who are interested in public safety to apply for the job online. The key requirements are: having no criminal background, being able to type 45 words in one minute, and having either a high school diploma or GED.
Click here to find out more information about the application process.