Dispatchers play vital role in emergency services

2013-04-13T03:30:00Z Dispatchers play vital role in emergency servicesBy Brett Ellis/Fremont Tribune Fremont Tribune
April 13, 2013 3:30 am  • 

It's not unusual for people to get to know the names and faces of the police officers, sheriff's deputies and fire and rescue personnel who respond to emergencies throughout Dodge County.

It's less likely though, that they know the people responsible for getting help to the scene.

Those dispatchers are being recognized during National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, which begins Sunday and runs through April 20.

"Most people don't know or don't think about the person who's in between them and the emergency responders," said Shelly Holzerland, director of communications for the Fremont/Dodge County Communication Center. "They know that they call 911 and somebody answers the phone, but they don't really have a clear idea of what actually goes on when they call 911. This just kind of gives us a chance to highlight the job that we do and how important it is to the emergency team."

Holzerland, who is beginning her 30th year as a dispatcher, said there currently are 12 full- and part-time dispatchers at the Fremont Police Department. There are five more who work at the Dodge County Sheriff's Office.

The police dispatchers also handle calls for the Fremont and Fremont Rural fire departments, while the sheriff's dispatchers coordinate services with the rest of the volunteer fire departments in the county.

"The members of the fire and rescue departments in Dodge County could not do their jobs as effectively as they do without the dispatchers," said Carl Nielsen, president of the Dodge County Firefighters Association.

The work of those dispatchers also hasn't gone unnoticed by other people who rely on them.

"The communications officers are people that have learned to do multiple tasks at the same time and do them under extreme pressure," Fremont Police Chief Jeff Elliott said. "Every life-and-death situation that occurs is dealt with at some point by a communications officer that is expected to have all of the information and have it correct. It is a difficult job that not everyone is suited for."

Dodge County Sheriff Steve Hespen said that along with providing information to the emergency responders, the dispatchers also play a vital role in handling the callers.

"They hear the information firsthand and then they can calm down people who are emotionally upset, and then also provide a real safety aspect for law enforcement because they can give the information on weapons or disruptive parties at the scene," Hespen said.

While the dispatchers often can spend a lot of their time waiting for calls, Holzerland said there are other times when they are extremely busy.

Examples of that, she said, are large-scale fires or traffic accidents involving multiple vehicles. Severe weather also can require dispatchers to be organized.

"It takes a lot of coordination between the responders, and the dispatchers handle a lot of that, helping them coordinate who's going where and who's doing what (and) getting resources out to them that they need at the scene," Holzerland said.

"The dispatchers do an excellent job in providing the fire department with the resources that are requested when on the scene of an incident," Fremont Fire Chief Todd Bernt said. "That allows the fire department personnel on scene to concentrate on the safety of all on scene. It's a great feeling that someone has our back in our time of need."

The two 911 centers soon will combine efforts when the Fremont/Dodge County Communications Center opens. Holzerland is hopeful that will happen by early June.

That will allow all of the dispatchers to be in one room and work together to handle emergencies.

"It's going to be a huge benefit to the response, to the responders and to the callers as well," Holzerland said.


Copyright 2015 Fremont Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.