For dispatchers at the Wheeling Ohio County 911 center, it’s not just a matter of taking a call, getting an address and hanging up the phone. They are sometimes aiding life and death situations.
Theresa Russell, director of the Wheeling Ohio County 911 center, said she can’t imagine the stress and flood of calls after the Sunday morning mass shooting in Orlando.
“You put yourself in that position and wonder how would that affect you and your own center here. I can only anticipate the size of Orlando, they have a larger center in comparison to ours we only have three dispatchers working at a time,” said Russell.
Although the Wheeling Ohio County 911 center may be smaller than Orlando’s, they deal with the same types of calls. They have even dispatched an active shooter situation at the Federal Building a little over two years ago.
“I can also relate that to an incident that we’ve already had to deal with, where you have a lot of frantic callers calling in and you have eye witnesses. Sometimes with the adrenaline rush that they’re going through and how they’re feeling you have to bring them down,” said Russell.
Theresa said her dispatcher’s are prepared to handle any situation, with the goal to get the most information as possible.
“Call their name or tell them you need to calm down, I need to ask you– you have to be as repetitive as possible,” said Russell.
Although they are behind the scenes, dispatcher’s are on the front lines of a disaster–and are sometimes the eyes and ears for law enforcement.
“Those dispatcher’s did if they had actual callers calling in who were eye witnesses, I would imagine we all received the same kind of training. We’re sitting in a little room and we have to utilize these people to tell us what they’re seeing,” said Russell.
Theresa added that if you have to call 911 try not to hang up on the dispatcher, so in case they need more information they can get it.