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Highlighting local 9-1-1 dispatchers for Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

Highlighting local 9-1-1 dispatchers during Nat'l Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.jpg
Posted at 5:26 PM, Apr 13, 2022

PUEBLO — It’s National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, and this week is all about highlighting 911 dispatchers, their work and their dedication to serving our community. Plus, during a week that’s been especially busy because of wildfires, their jobs, have gotten that much more challenging.

There’s a team of 15 dispatchers at the Pueblo Police Department. Since April 1, they have taken calls for 16 wildfires in which the fire department has responded to. It’s more than average during this time of year.

However, during an emergency, their voices are often heard and their faces are not often seen.

“We are the first people that answer the phones and take the call for any type of an emergency,” said Heather Helverson, an emergency service dispatcher with Pueblo PD. “It's a challenge because it's multitasking. You have a headset on each ear. You're listening to the phone, you're listening to the radio and the chaos around you. It's like running a one man band.”

911 dispatchers are the first line of communication in any emergency, like a crime or health-related issues, a structure fire or a wildfire.

“We've definitely gotten a lot of the calls recently. Because of the increase in the fires, you get a lot of people who are concerned and want to call right away and make someone aware,” said Jennifer Dean, another emergency service dispatcher.

Dean says in the past two weeks, her and the team have seen an increase in the number of calls for fires too.

“It just gets really crazy, really fast. Going from somebody calling with smoke, to the very next call is, there's 20 foot flames. And so it can escalate really quickly,” said Dean.

Her and other dispatchers with Pueblo PD take anywhere from 60 to 100 calls every day. They know how to manage high-stress situations, and act fast in gathering as much information as possible.

“We can let the firefighters know exactly where that fire is so we can get on to that location and get that fire knocked out. And the firefighters have an idea of how to get in and best access,” said Helverson. “It moves quickly and wild land fires are so unpredictable. So it's important that you be aware of your surroundings and that you can let us know exactly where you are.”

And with so much responsibility, comes added stress on the job, like to comfort and keep callers calm on the other end. That’s why they’re the unseen heroes of public safety.

“It's mentally challenging and exhausting. I think we all look out for one another to make sure that if it gets overwhelming that one of us can say you know what, you need to take a break,” said Helverson.

Right now, there’s a nation-wide shortage of 911 dispatchers. So, callers may be placed on hold during a phone call. At Pueblo PD, they have twelve full-time vacancies. Callers are encouraged to be patient, and your call will get taken as soon as possible.