Celebrate 911 dispatchers this week - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Celebrate 911 dispatchers this week

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THOMASVILLE, GA (WALB) -

It's the first phone number many of us learn.

We're taught to call 911 in an emergency.

While we often think about the police officers and paramedics and firefighters who respond when we call 911, we often overlook who is on the other side of the phone.

While a 911 robbery call is probably one of the more traumatic experiences in the caller's life, it is just another day on the job for Lt. Chavetta McClenton.

"It's very important for us to maintain the same composure every time. Whether it's a frantic caller or a very calm caller. We can't show the caller that side of us being very frantic when the caller calls in," said McClenton.

This week is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week.

It is a time to honor all 911 dispatchers.

"They are the first voice that a caller hears when they call in to 911. However they get very very little recognition for the work that they do," said Thomas County E-911 Director Ann Powell.

McClenton has worked for Thomas County E-911 for nine years.

She shared with us one of the toughest calls she's had.

"It was an accident. And the caller was young and it was in the middle of the night. And the only call they could get out was the 911. And so they're frantic because they don't know where they are. They're injured. They're pinned in the car."

And McClenton says like in this situation, the calls do not always have a happy ending.

"EMS first responders or whoever gets on the scene, then that's when you have your meltdown moment because that person didn't make it. They didn't survive, but the whole time you were on the call with them. You had to maintain your composure to reassure them that they had help on the way."

Powell says not everyone is cut out for the position.

"Really to learn this job it takes about a year, but we learn there is something new every day. Like I said I've been on this job nine years, but the training program that we have is about six to eight weeks in a classroom. And then it is continued training on the shift. We have to be sent off to Forsyth," said McClenton.

Powell says her dispatchers do get to have a little fun this week by wearing wacky shirts, hats, and hairdos.

Thomas County dispatchers handle more than 180,000 requests a year for sheriff, police, fire, and emergency ambulance services.

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