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Answering the Call: National Public Safety Telecommunications Week Shines Light on Work of 911 Dispatchers

Update: Read all of our employee spotlights here

“This job can take a mental and emotional toll on you, and you have to be strong enough to weather that and help the community effectively and efficiently as if every caller was your closest family member,” Shaina Harris somberly explains. The Buncombe County 911 Dispatcher says most people don’t really understand what the job entails, but hopefully National Public Safety Telecommunications Week (April 9-15) can shine some light on the impressive and overwhelming volume and variety of work County dispatchers face day-to-day. At any given time Public Safety Communicators could be answering emergency and non-emergency calls; dispatching Fire, EMS, and law enforcement; monitoring multiple channels at once; entering people and items into the system as stolen, wanted, or missing; checking warrants; setting up transports, and more. “Getting the opportunity to sit inside a communications room is very eye opening and changes many people’s outlook on our jobs, even those in the field. It takes a very special person to fill one of these seats. We are the first, first responders,” notes Shaina.

Part of Buncombe County’s National Public Safety Telecommunications Week is coordinating with local businesses to help provide support and boost morale by providing meals, raffle prizes, and other ways to show appreciation for dispatchers’ hard work. Along with Shaina, 911 Dispatcher Preston Hubbard is helping coordinate many of the week’s activities. “After experiencing a very tough and demanding year, I wanted to tackle this project because I wanted to make sure that our team was able to partake in a fun-filled week that includes lots of food and gifts,” he says. “I am very thankful for our community partners that have taken the time out of their day to be a part of our celebration by offering their support.

Emergency Services Business Manager Alex McKnight knows firsthand how hard the County’s entire Public Safety Communications team works. “A career as a 911 dispatcher is fast-paced, hectic, and above all else, rewarding. As a part of a chain of emergency responders, dispatchers are the face—or the ear—of all emergency calls to 911. It takes a remarkable person to do a dispatcher's work, and it is not suited to everyone. Only 3% of the world’s population can do this job, and almost all dispatchers suffer vicarious trauma from either helping the community through some of the most heinous situations or assisting Police, Fire, and EMS responding to the worst calls you can imagine,” explains Alex. “In my opinion, 911 dispatchers are the most compassionate and passionate people you will ever meet. No one in their right mind would take on the monumental task of coordinating between local, state, federal and sometimes international agencies for the pay they receive. They do it because they want to make a difference and help those in need.”

Shaina says while it’s been a difficult year for her team, Public Safety Telecommunications Week is something they all look forward to. “I want to ensure that my coworkers know and feel that they are appreciated and that we see all the hard work and dedication they put in to this place every time they step through the door,” she says of her motivation to help coordinate meals and other activities for the week. “Words can’t even describe how thankful we are for all the donations we have received from different businesses throughout the County. We are in absolute awe at the amount of love and support that has been poured out…  we couldn’t do it without them and they have made this year very special and one we won’t forget.”

Buncombe County is so proud of the dedication, long hours, overnight shifts, and all the other hard work our Public Safety Communicators put in every day. As Preston says, “Public safety workers sacrifice a large amount to make sure that the residents of Buncombe County have continuous 911 coverage for any emergency and non-emergency need.” Please take a moment to thank our first, first responders for National Public Safety Telecommunications Week and every day.

Buncombe County would like to thank the following businesses and organizations for helping support Public Safety Telecommunications Week:

Sleep On It Mattress
Who Does Your Hair
Nothing Bundt Cakes
Cakes by Jane
Swannanoa Fire Department
Woodfin Fire Department
Broad River Fire Department
Black Mountain Police Department
The Hop Ice Cream
Sweeten Creek Auto
Westside Shears
You’ve Got Maids
The Biltmore
Twilight Salon
Sams Club
Mountain Area Medical Airlift (MAMA)
Enka Fire Department
800 Board Up
Asheville Fire Department
Reems Creek Fire Department
Asheville Police Department
Fairview Fire Department
Weaverville Fire Department
Ridin on Faith Ministries
Reynolds Fire Department
Skyland Fire Department
West Buncombe Fire Department
Riceville Fire Department
Asheville Tourist
Blue Mountain Pizza
Asheville Salt Cave
Agricultural Center
Chop Shop
Fender Wheel and Tire
Fire Department Coffee Company
Blue Ridge Orthopedics
Texas Roadhouse
Swannanoa Fire Department
Woodfin Fire Department
Buncombe County EMS
Buncombe County Emergency Management
West Side Shears
Reems Creek Golf Course
Black Mountain Golf Course
Smokey and the Pig
Tropical Gardens
Red Lobster
Northern Tool and Equipment
Sky Lanes
Brakes 4 Less
Wilderness at the Smokies
Publix – Weaverville
Black Mountain Massage and Wellness
Coach House
NC Forest Service
Garren Creek Fire Department
Mast General

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Updated Apr 21, 2023 07:47 AM
Published Apr 10, 2023 12:00 PM