If you’ve ever wondered what it is like to be on the ‘front lines’ in Public Safety, just ask a Public Safety Communicator (we call them “dispatchers”)! They’re the ones who answer your phone calls, who let our police, fire and medical responders know who is in need and what is needed, and who make sure we’re kept up to date on rapidly changing calls.
You’ll also be pleased to know that our dispatchers are highly qualified. Trained in Emergency Medical Dispatching, or EMD, our dispatchers can give life saving instructions to callers… and they do so regularly. There are, we are certain, many in our community who look at Springville and think “What a nice quiet community… our police and firemen must not have much to do.” But here are the numbers: For the past couple of years, our dispatchers have handled an average of more than twenty-nine thousand CAD calls! (CAD stands for “Computer Aided Dispatch” and they include all calls for police, fire and ambulance service, including 9-1-1.) Police have been sent out to investigate nearly fourteen thousand calls for service, and Fire and ambulance services have been provided at a rate of more than three thousand calls during those same two years.
Those numbers don’t include all of the thousands of phone calls (about forty-thousand each year) or the nine-thousand emergency 9-1-1 phone calls that come into our center each year. (Some calls, like a major fire, may generate just one police investigation, one fire investigation and one ambulance call… but those same calls can generate dozens of phone calls from concerned citizens. And remember this… every single phone call must be answered… quickly… professionally. And they are! It takes an average of about three seconds from the time the phone rings until the caller has a dispatcher on the line!
So, when you get a chance, think about our unseen first line of public safety… and the great job they do! And if you know a dispatcher, tell them thanks!
Once upon a time, when someone needed help from the town marshal, he would send someone to ‘fetch the marshal’ in person. Eventually the telephone made ‘fetching the marshal’ a whole lot easier.
When telephone service first came to Springville, our citizens would crank a handle on the phone to ring the operator. Once the operator was on the line, the caller would tell her what was needed, and she would flip a nearby light switch. The switch would turn on a bright light on top of a telephone pole, which in turn would alert the local police (as soon as they noticed) that help was needed. Hopefully if it was an emergency, the policeman wasn’t too far away, and he would notice the bright light was on!
If it was a fire, someone would run out to the old fire bell and ring it loudly. As the City was divided into four sections by Center Street and Main Street, one ring would send the volunteers running to “area one, ” two rings meant “area two, ” three was “area three” and so forth.
Eventually more people had access to telephone, and the police finally got radios in their “black and whites.” So the operator was replaced by an office worker in the daytime or a janitor at night, and when the phone rang they’d answer.
By the 1970’s when someone called in to report a fire, the dispatchers (who now were dispatching mostly, and doing janitorial duties on the side) would pick up a bright red telephone, which would then begin making calls to the thirty-five volunteer firemen. Each time a volunteer would answer the phone, the dispatcher would repeat the nature of the call… a process that was time consuming to say the least! There was also a loud siren that would sound for each fire called in… as well as at noon each day.
Today our dispatch center has around-the-clock coverage and employ the latest in technology. Our dispatchers are trained as “EMD’s” or Emergency Medical Dispatchers. As such they are able to give life-saving instructions over the telephone, and have been credited with helping family members save the lives of a number of children and adults alike. Connected by radio, cellular telephone and computers systems to police, fire and medical response personnel, our Dispatch Center handles thousands of calls each week.
Every year our dispatchers handle more than twenty-five thousand CAD calls, forty to sixty thousand phone calls and between eight and eleven thousand emergency 911 calls each year… and those numbers seem to be growing!