Public Safety Week recognized in Ford County

By Vincent Marshall
Dodge City Globe – April 16, 2015

Todd White, a 911 dispatcher with Ford County Communications, answers radio communication with officers from the Ford County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday.  Photo by Vincent Marshall.

Todd White, a 911 dispatcher with Ford County Communications, answers radio communication with officers from the Ford County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday. Photo by Vincent Marshall.

The very first 911-phone call was made in Alabama in 1968 for citizens to use in emergency situations. Now 47 years later, that phone number is known globally.

This week marks the annual National Public Safety Week, which is a time to say thank you to those in the telecommunications public safety community.

National Public Safety Week was started by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials and runs the second full week of April every year.

APCO International is the world’s oldest and largest organization of public safety communications professionals and supports the largest US membership base of any public safety association.

“During this week of celebration, I would personally like to thank the men and women who work in our nation’s 911 centers,” APCO president John Wright said. “Thank you for having to take winter vacations, missing birthdays, holidays, family events and working long hours in critically under staffed centers.”

In talking of under staffed communication centers, Ford County Communications is on that list.

“We are very understaffed,” Ford County Communications director Linda Smith said. “We have 3-person staffs on the weekend shifts but during the week we only have 2-person staffs.”

In April 1993, the Dodge City and Ford County dispatchers combined agencies into one hub, becoming Ford County Communications. They dispatch city police, county sheriff, city and county fire and EMS and as well as being the 911 call center.

The communications center is made up of professionals who are trained with the best technology and techniques available to best serve the needs of the community.

“Statewide, we will be having the Next-Gen 911 recording system,” Smith said, “which is a system for recording texts and video for emergency purposes. It is projected to be operational by 2017 for the whole state but will be setup regionally throughout the state starting this year. We are not sure when that technology will be used for Ford County but it will be happening.

“One of the issues with the new technology coming is the costs but more importantly is the staff. Luckily once the next-gen system is installed, there will not be much of a learning curve for the dispatchers because it is the same type of system we currently use, but it will be more enhanced.”

Not only are dispatch centers under staffed they are also constantly training, even while on the job.

They work closely with the American Heart Association in terms of administering Emergency Medical Dispatch assistance according to the guidelines set by AHA and also change policy and procedures when dispatching to follow the ever changing local, state and federal laws.

“The job of a 911 dispatcher has become very technical,” Smith said. “They are seldom recognized for the work they do and the required training that they must consistently strive to maintain in the most current technologies, best practices, laws, as well as the policies of each of the agencies they serve.

“Ford County Communications staff is dedicated to serving our community and in providing quality services. We want to thank you for this opportunity and honor that has been bestowed upon us in being your first responders. Dispatchers save seconds. Seconds saves lives.”

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