National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, which is April 12-18, is a time to remember the vital role telecommunicators play in receiving and dispatching first responders to deal with emergencies.
The county’s 911 Communications Center answers all 911 calls in Forsyth County that are outside the City of Winston-Salem. The center has 30 telecommunicators that receive about 100,000 calls a year.
“We call them the 'first' first responders,” said 911 System Manager Herb Swaim. “They are the first contact the public has with the emergency response system and these men and women do a fabulous job of taking these calls.”
If firefighters or paramedics are needed for a call, 911 telecommunicators will dispatch Emergency Medical Services (EMS) or local fire departments to those incidents. Callers that need a law enforcement response are transferred to the Sheriff’s Communications Center.
The Sheriff’s Communications Center currently has 25 telecommunicators that receive an average of 13,951 emergency 911 calls a year. They also handle non-emergency calls to the Sheriff’s Office and receive an average of 127,716 of those calls a year.
“They’re very hard working,” said Sheriff’s Office Communications Supervisor Ashley Conrad. “They come in on their days off. They work 12 hour shifts and sometimes stay over that to help their fellow telecommunicators working longer shifts.”
Public Safety telecommunications is a mentally demanding job that involves constantly responding to a variety of emergencies, and they play a vital role in getting residents the help they need in a crisis.
“We couldn’t do without them,” said County Commissioner Chair Dave Plyler. “All the first responders in this county are second to none.”
It’s an essential job to the health and safety of the community that cannot be done by working from home. Telecommunicators are continuing to work out of the communication centers located in the Forsyth County Public Safety Center, which also houses the Sheriff’s Office. There are numerous measures put in place to protect the telecommunicators from COVID-19 exposure, including cleaning each station in the call centers several times a day.