The first emergency responder you may encounter in your time of need is not wearing a badge or driving in a cruiser, they’re working in a 911 center ready to listen and get you help, “We’re the first person the public has contact with, we can either make or break it,” said Ohio County 911 Director, Theresa Russell.
In a short amount of time, dispatchers at the Ohio County 911 center said they’re the eyes and ears for the police, sheriff’s office, and fire departments, but it’s not always a matter of life or death, “So I don’t think the public understands to a degree that not only do we take the 911 calls but we also take in the administrative calls for several departments,” Russell said.
The center answered 152,000 calls last year, dispatching 39,000 of those for law enforcement. Only about 35,000 of those were actual emergencies and the most common call is for domestics.
No matter what, they’ll answer; during bad weather, utility issues, and even the occasional prankster, “I’ve had instances I’ve had a small child that was ejected out of a car from an accident,” said Dispatcher Scott Himrod.
After years of dispatching, Himrod said some calls he just can’t forget. He gets choked when he remembers his wife on the other line, frantic as their infant son was choking, “I have to take that type of call. I know the day when we had the flooding back in 2004 I remember that day, we all walked outside and cried. You know we were taking breaks and as soon as you hit the outside you just lost it. But you came back down after 15 minutes and got to lift yourself up and continued to do your job. Emotionally it will drain you, and you know you go home kind of bummed and that’s when you grab the kids and hold them extra tight.”
Himrod said picking up this phone can get draining, but being the first line of safety for the community, even over the phone, is the reason he keeps coming back, “Law enforcement public safety in general it gets criticized a lot, the ones that you can have people come back and say thank you for what you did. Helping people you know being able to help people out, you know the challenge, every call is a different challenge.”
7News encourages you to say thanks during ‘Dispatcher Appreciation week’, April 9th through the 15th.