HCEC thanks our Telecommunicators – National Public SafetyTelecommunicators Week April 8-14
April 09, 2012
Dispatchers have existed for about as long as the phone has, although they used to be called “switchboard operators” and connected all calls, not just emergency ones. At that time, operators were often the ones who found the best emergency support, provided additional contact information, and even set off the town fire alarm.
When people were granted the ability to dial phone numbers themselves, many screamed out in terror at the loss of the diligent, early-era dispatchers. How could they afford to lose these amazing assets? In brief, they couldn’t. ”Dial 0 for emergencies” was popular until the beginning of 911 history, which became the official emergency response line in 1968.
Dispatchers continue to adapt to new circumstances, implement new technologies, and save countless lives. Today, they are the first line of defense between a frantic population and imminent disaster. They work so hard, don’t you think they deserve a medal or a holiday or something?
Well, that’s what Patricia Anderson thought back in 1981 when she first proposed the idea of a Public Safety Telecommunictors holiday. The idea was so spot on that it spread through other U.S. areas and eventually made its way onto national legislation. In 1992, supporters pushed celebrations to a national level by successfully getting the second full week in April declared “National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week”—although we mostly shorten it to NTW now, what with our desire to breathe every once in a while—and it has been an official holiday ever since.
The reality is, many people forget about dispatchers. Throughout dispatching history, focus goes to police officers or firefighters while dispatch personnel are thrust to the shadows. In fact, if you search Google, you’ll see that “Police Officer” is mentioned 82 times more than “Police Dispatcher” or “911 Dispatcher.” A lack of recognition may be the status quo, but NTW seeks to remedy that.
In his 1994 Presidential Proclamation, President Clinton described the purpose of NTW well:
“America’s public safety telecommunicators serve our citizens daily in countless ways. The work of these “unseen first responders” is invaluable in emergency situations, and each of these dedicated men and women deserves our heartfelt appreciation. . . . This week is a time for a grateful Nation to show its appreciation and to recognize that our health, safety, and well-being are often dependent on the commitment and steadfast devotion of public safety telecommunicators.“
And how do dispatchers celebrate NTW? It certainly varies from region to region, and has evolved from the start of NTW history, but all across America dispatchers are given a week of recognition for the work they do each day. From press conferences to public announcements to banquets to PSAP parties, the week is used to focus on the importance of public safety telecommunicators.
Staying out of the limelight may seem more comfortable for some, but there comes a time to step on stage and be recognized for all that you contribute. For dispatchers, that time is National Telecommunicators Week.
What are you doing to celebrate?