When people talk about “first responders” they are usually referring to police, firefighters, and paramedics. But so often the first people to respond to an emergency are actually the 911 dispatchers themselves. With the ubiquitous coverage of 911 emergency services across the United States, the vast majority of people immediately dial the number upon witnessing or becoming involved in an emergency. For this reason several news outlets have recently taken time to acknowledge the important work done by 911 dispatchers, and to encourage their readers and viewers to give thanks to these important emergency professionals.
Citing the fact that National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week is celebrated every year for the second full week in April, a Virginia news station recently took time to thank 911 emergency dispatchers and acknowledge the fact that they are literally the first responders to many of the nation’s emergencies.
In San Francisco the city’s board of supervisors, along with its fire chief, recognized the heroic work of one of its own 911 dispatchers in response to last year’s Asiana Flight 214 plane crash. In honoring 911 dispatcher Matthew Roybal, the city officials noted that he helps keep his team members reassured, even on the worst days, and named him “911 Dispatcher of the Year.”
In Huston, a 911 dispatcher named Stacey Frilot was recognized for her handling of calls relating to a mass shooting in the area on November 9, 2013.
These kinds of awards and recognitions help to remind not only the dispatchers themselves, but also the public, about the important work that these first responders do. It is often easy to take 911 services for granted, but anyone who has traveled to a foreign country where emergency dispatch services are less unified, less accessible and less efficient, will quickly find that citizens are often left to fend for themselves in the event of an emergency.
Our nation’s 911 dispatch service helps to provide a certain level of order in confusing situations. For this, all Americans should be thankful.