Board members and call takers gathered to take time to celebrate their successes and to take a look forward at the upcoming co-location that will help to dispatch first responders more effectively and efficiently. Attendees enjoyed ham, chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese and pineapple upside down cake among other foods in the much-deserved celebration.
The first 911 call was placed Feb. 16, 1968 on a red rotary phone in Haleyville, Alabama, by Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite from Haleyville City Hall to Congressman Tom Bevill at the city's police station.
The 911 services were not introduced in Wilson County until 1989, and since then, 911 operators have assisted citizens and municipalities in safety and emergency services.
Wilson County’s 911 Center Lebanon has 15 employees and has had an annual increase in the amount of emergency calls. It received 800 more calls in September compared to the same month last year.
When Wilson County 911 Director Karen Moore first started in 1991, the center averaged 25 calls per day, a number that has jumped to more than 100 calls per day.
The 911 call takers and dispatchers are in a unique position to assist people in some of their most stressful times and they are often unsung heroes of emergency response, Moore said. Professionalism and focus is needed to help in highly emotional situations and the voices that help get emergency personnel to callers are those people.
According to Moore, the call takers can be get stressed, burnt out and overwhelmed like anyone else, but it is up to these call takers to separate themselves from the situation and make sure that help arrives.
Moore said that compassion, teamwork and patience are key to help those in need.
“You’ve got to realize that you’ve got these people at the worst moment of their life, so to them 15 seconds is 15 minutes. A lot of times they don’t understand about technology, especially with 85 percent of our calls based from cell phones, they think we should know where they’re at, well unfortunately that’s not true,” Moore said.
Those updates and technology will be added in the near future, but until then, call takers must use their tools, skills and intuition to help in moments of crisis.
The calls can have lasting effects as call takers hear everything that is going wrong on the other side of that call – screaming, crying, sounds of violence. Memories that stick with these operators as a reminder of how important their jobs are.
“There are places that we pass by – I pass one house everyday on my way to work and I think about them. I don’t know if I’ve ever driven past there and not thought about it even though now I’m probably a good 13 or 14 years away from when I took that original call that took place there,” Moore said.
Communications coordinator Teresa Fisher said she has instilled a customer service attitude that assures that call takers understand the importance of making the experience of calling 911 as easy and positive as possible.