After an emergency, no one remembers that faceless voice on the other end of the 911 call who heard the desperate cries and sent help.
But those communications officers, known only by their calm voices, are the hub of all emergency response in Columbia County, Columbia County sheriff's Lt. Tina Stacy said. She oversees the daily operations of the sheriff's office E-911 Communications Center, which is the public safety answering point for 911 calls placed in the county.
"Communications officers are the unseen heroes," Stacy said. "They are the lifeline of basically the whole county."
The public is invited to meet these the communications officers at an open house from 2 to 8 p.m. today at the sheriff's office in Appling. Officers from the sheriff's office center, Harlem, Grovetown, Gold Cross and Martinez Fire Department will be on site to meet and talk with visitors in honor of National Telecommunicators Week.
"People have an image in their mind of what they might look like because you never see them," Stacy said. "We want (the public) to know who these people are on the other end of the phone when you call 911."
The open house includes a trip upstairs to the communications center to meet off-duty officers and watch the center operations for the first time, Stacy said.
Dispatchers field calls on six 911 lines and 15 nonemergency lines. The center directly dispatches calls to the sheriff's office and North Columbia Fire and Rescue. Medical calls are transferred to the Gold Cross dispatch center and others to Martinez Fire Department or Harlem and Grovetown agencies.
The job is stressful, and the hours are long, but the job is satisfying, said Joanne Murdock, a center shift supervisor.
The four or five dispatchers on the center's four shifts work a rotating schedule of 12-hour days.
"You either learn to eat fast or eat your food cold," Murdock said.
The county will thank dispatchers for their work behind the scenes this week with gift giveaways and a lunch with Sheriff Clay Whittle on Friday. The communications officers from each dispatch center also will be touring each others' facilities.
The open house will feature information on the centers workings, computer mapping upgrades, wireless 911 calls, the franchise fee paid to the center by wireless carriers and children's activities, Stacy said.
"They are just like everybody else," Stacy said about the group of hard-working dispatchers. "They are just like the citizens that are calling in. They feel, when you call, that their No. 1 job is to take care of you."
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