911 dispatchers recognized during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

Published: Apr. 9, 2018 at 6:41 PM EDT
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This week marks the annual National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, as thousands of employees in emergency communications centers are honored for their work responding to crises.

"You can have all the fancy equipment in the world, but if you don't have trained and capable people to operate that, the whole system is worthless," said Jim Copenhaver, deputy director of the Harrison/Taylor County 911 Center.

Copenhaver explains that in order to be effective at their jobs, dispatchers have to be "jack of all trades."

"At a moment's notice, they're expected to be a subject matter expert on cardiac arrest, how to give CPR, how to give instructions when an infant is choking, how to calmly and accurately deal with a person whose dog is missing," Copenhaver said.

And their duties go well beyond just answering emergency calls.

"We talk to law enforcement agencies, we dispatch calls, we dispatch for Fire and EMS," said Nina Loar, who has been working as a Harrison County telecommunicator for six years.

Loar said that people often wrongly perceive her job as one that boils down to a sole responsibility: answering 911 calls.

"We do everything here," she said. "There's not just one person who does one thing."

5 News' Mike Valente spent some time with Loar and Copenhaver Monday. While some of the calls they receive can be distressing, they said it's important that they don't let those moments rattle them. The full story can be seen above.