911 Director Responds To Critical Letter

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I think some people tend to have some misconceptions in how the 911 Dispatch Center receives and dispatches calls at the 911 Center and feel the Citizens of Cannon County should have some insight into the daily duties of a 911 Dispatcher.

911 dispatchers in Cannon County receive well over 100 hrs of training as required by the State of Tennessee to be a 911 dispatcher, or properly termed, 911 Public Safety Telecommunicator. There are many more hours of training that they attend, not because they are required to but because they have the desire to be the best 911 Public Safety Telecommunicator they can be.

Cannon County 911 Dispatch Center receives an average of 260 calls for service weekly, 65 on average are 911 in origin. Regardless of the call volume, these calls are received and dispatched. As a result of their training, a dispatcher must decide which units to be dispatched, which order in which to dispatch them, the priority in which to dispatch them based on the call information received at the time. Many variables must be taken into account and a decision made within seconds.

At the same time the dispatcher must document the information given, answer radio traffic, answer incoming phone calls, make outgoing calls and depending on the incident, be done while dispatching four different emergency response agencies. During severe weather, the call volume can double as well as the number of residential or business burglar alarm calls that are received.

Below is a burglar alarm call that was received at 12:37 on October the 9th and events surrounding that particular call.

12:25 A Tornado Watch was issued for Cannon County

12:35 Sheriff’s Deputy attempts service of a criminal paper

12:38 Burglar alarm activation in the western part of the county, second Deputy on duty is dispatched to that call

12:41 Burglar alarm activation at a different residence, north of Woodbury.

12:48 Deputy completes service of the criminal paper and is immediately dispatched to the second alarm call

13:02 Deputy on first alarm call advises residence appears secure, back in service

13:12 Deputy arrives on scene of second alarm call

13:18 Deputy on second alarm call advises residence appears secure, back in service

This is just one example of how one call affects the other. Mutual aid guidelines are in place and utilized as needed. Many variables are involved and required prioritization comparable to what is required to do in medical triage when dealing with multiple calls.

The Cannon County 911 District has come a long way since assuming control of full operations July 1, 2007 and moving into the new dispatch center April 2008.

All operators meet and exceed the minimum requirements set forth by the State of Tennessee for receiving or transferring a 911 call.

One goal as 911 Director was to raise the level of training for all employees at the 911 center and to ensure continuing education.

Contrary to what people see on TV, the State of Tennessee does not require agencies to dispatch emergency medical pre-arrival instructions to 911 callers and some counties still do not do so. Cannon County 911 has chosen to provide the best service available to the citizens of Cannon County and now holds the certifications required to dispatch emergency medical pre-arrival instructions as needed.

Another accomplishment has been the implementation of dispatching EMS by radio resulting in the ambulance en-route time being cut in half. It is an ongoing process to explore ways to quicken the response times by the various emergency response agencies that serve Cannon County and this is only a few things that have been implemented in doing so.

Anyone that has had the privilege to witness the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia has seen the pride and professionalism instilled in the Sentinels that are in trusted to guard the Tomb. During the day, the public can watch the Changing of The Guard ceremony and then is closed at night. But what most people don’t know is that those Sentinels guard the Tomb 24 hours a day, 7 days week, 365 days a year, rain or shine. Only one time were they requested to stand down and that was for an incoming hurricane, to which the Sentinels refused to leave their post.

Dispatchers man their consoles 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year but because they work behind closed doors, are often overlooked and don’t get the recognition they deserve to ensure 911 service to all the citizens of Cannon County, at times sacrificing their personal lives to do so. If you see a dispatcher regardless of where they work, please stop them and thank them for their time and service to the counties and cities they serve.

Respectfully submitted,
Roy Sullivan
Cannon County 911 Emergency Communications District
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Members Opinions:
November 04, 2009 at 7:45pm
And I thought pay, benefits and the simple fact of being employed would be enough.
November 05, 2009 at 12:32pm
As a former 911 Dispatcher myself for several years, I agree. The public has no idea what these people do and how much they sacrifice 24/7/365. It goes beyond pay and benefits (because I can guarantee you our Cannon County dispatchers ARE underpaid!)And I promise you not everyone can do this job because I seen many fail when they realized what it was really all about.
In regards to response to home alarms, I can also tell you those alarms are 99% of the time "false" alarms. Also because of the way alarm companies are set up, they call the "contact" list first before ever notify the law enforcement agency. That in itself is time consuming and if someone was breaking into your home, they have plenty of time to "get their job done". From my experience as a dispatcher, I realized these alarms are more or less a joke, except in cases of fire. And if there is a storm, you can bet there will be double and triple the alarm calls and, of course, will not receive the appropriate response because of call overload.
So, to the person who had such a problem with our 911 system, I say take a visit to the center and just sit for a day or two. I think you'll realize and understand a lot more and not be so quick to judge next time. I'm also sure you'll be the first to yell about your taxes being raised when the county decides to hire more officers.
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