This week, April 13-19, is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, a week designated to honor those who perform dispatching duties for law enforcement. The week is sponsored by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International (APCO). Celebrated annually, the week honors the thousands of men and women who answer emergency calls; dispatch emergency professionals and equipment; and render life-saving assistance to the world’s citizens.
The critical role played by public safety telecommunications professionals across the nation, and within the KHP, is oftentimes underappreciated and underestimated. When a member of the public or an officer needs help during an emergency, dispatchers become their lifeline, ensuring that the appropriate assistance is contacted and en route to whatever the situation might be.
In 2013, KHP dispatchers answered 342,578 calls for service and issued 17,833 case numbers (for incidents such as accidents and arrests). As an example of a high-volume time period in dispatch, during a snow storm in 2013, which lasted a few days, our dispatch personnel answered 2,700 total calls for instances such as vehicles off the roadway, checking on motorists, and crashes. Dispatchers during 2013 also answered 250 Safe School Hotline calls; and 26 Underage Drinking Hotline calls.
Most of the KHP’s telecommunications professionals are centrally housed in Salina, with a few assigned to Topeka. They collectively serve the Patrol’s 498 uniformed personnel members throughout the Patrol’s seven field troops, and the Capitol Complex. Currently, there are nearly 69 men and women assigned dispatch duties within the agency.
Some tips for calling in an emergency or incident:
- Stay calm. Take a deep breath try not to get excited. It’s important that the dispatcher can understand what it is you are saying, so speak clearly and calmly.
- Know the location. Whether you are on the highway, or at a residence, you need to know where you are. Get the address or pay attention to highway mile markers and roads you’re near. If you’re calling from a cell phone, not all dispatch centers have the technology to track your location. It will save a great deal of time if you know the actual location of the emergency.
- If the dispatcher requests you pause for a moment, do so. They also have to take care of radio traffic, and other emergency services. They could be in the process of dispatching an officer to your emergency, and they need to be able to hear and understand that officer.
- Let the call-taker guide the conversation. They are typing the information officers need into a computer. It’s important you are patient so they get all of the information needed and so it is accurate.
- Follow all directions. In some cases, the call-taker will give you directions. Listen carefully, follow each step exactly, and ask for clarification if you don’t understand.
- Pay attention to surroundings. You may be asked to describe victims, suspects, vehicles, or other parts of the scene. It’s important you mention if a lane of traffic is blocked, or if there is debris in the roadway.
- Do not hang up the call until directed to do so by the call-taker.
For more information about APCO and National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, visit www.apcointl.org.