Behind the scenes: The voice behind your 9-1-1 calls

Good Day Dakota

This week we celebrate the people that often don’t get the recognition they deserve. National Telecommunicator Week is an annual campaign dedicated to acknowledging call takers, dispatchers, and everyone else behind the scenes for their role in public safety.

They are responsible for helping us through some of the most nerve-racking and heartbreaking moments.

Going behind the scenes, was an eye-opening experience, to see what they really do.

Director of the North Dakota State Radio, Mike Lynk says, “You would think that the dispatchers or the telecommunicators would just pick up the phone and answer the phone but they are there as the lifeline.”
 
We often take for granted what the people behind the scenes do for us.
 
“They do things miraculous things all the time and like I said they are there saving lives. It’s rewarding but on the other hand, it can be hard at times,” says Lynk.
 
From April of 2018 through March of this year, the state of North Dakota responded to over 30,000 phones calls. But what is a typical day like for a dispatcher?
 
“We work 12-hour shifts so that in itself is kind of stressful. Day to Day I come in and I answer 911 calls for the entire state of North Dakota,” says Katie Schmidt, Assistant Supervisor at North Dakota State Radio.
 
Schmidt says she has to deal with a variety of different callers some more difficult than others.
 
“We have to remain as professional as possible. They are having the worst day of their life, but I’m not going to let that bother me. I have been called everything in the book,” says 
Even though most calls are a cry for help, there is the occasional call that puts a smile on her face.
 
Assistant Supervisor at North Dakota State Radio, Katie Schmidt says, “There was a really funny call when this little boy called 911 because a squirrel climbed up on a flag pole and he wanted to save the squirrel…and it was adorable.”
 
But she does get the difficult phone calls on a weekly basis, many times ending with hysterical callers scared and not knowing what to do. But that’s when Schmidt’s job becomes most important.
 
“Repetitive persistence,” says Schmidt. “Usually finding out what their name is and using their name. You don’t want to yell at them but you want to raise your voice to try and get their attention. I’m soft spoken and I have a softer voice so I like to just speak as calmly to them as possible.”
 
Schmidt says while she rarely gets to find out the final outcome after hanging up the phone, she knows her job is crucial to getting people the help they need.
 
“There are those times when someone does thank you that is always just great to hear…it just makes the job that much better.”
 
Schmidt wants to remind parents that disconnected cell phones can still pick up 9-1-1 calls–so letting kids play with old cell phones, isn’t really the greatest idea.

The North Dakota State Radio employs nearly 100 people in our state and covers 25 counties.
 
 

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