CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Many counties across the Coastal Bend are celebrating Telecommunications Appreciation Week, but do you know what happens behind the scenes when a dispatcher gets your call?
San Patricio County dispatchers take 9-1-1 calls and calls from the non-emergency line, getting calls for the fire department, police officers, and paramedics. A blue screen gives dispatchers information like the callers phone number and address and a green screen serves as a map of where the call is coming from.
Dispatcher Naomi Soto says she’s been a dispatcher for about 15 years, saying the hardest part about the job is demanding people and people expecting dispatchers to know their location, which they sometimes need additional information for. She said she loves her job and getting to communicate with police officers gives the job a family environment.
“It becomes family. They’re in here. When they’re stressed ,we let out our stress out to them. If they don’t agree with something we did they come in and tell us, we tell them,” Soto said.
Soto said the call that sticks with her the most is an open-line call in which she could hear a man in pain on the ground but he was not responding back to her. She said knowing she’s helping people makes her feel accomplished.
Betsy Mandujan, another dispatcher for San Patricio County, said the hardest part about the job is multitasking, listening to calls, separating, and prioritizing them. As for the most rewarding part, she said it’s knowing she’s making a difference.
“You connect with their tone of voice, their feelings, their emotions, and even though you’re on the phone, you’re connecting with that person and you feel like you made a difference with them,” Mandujano said.
She said she can't carry every call with her, but one call that sticks out to her is a call she received from a juvenile’s father and that juvenile’s friend was needing emotional help and didn’t have much information like their address. She said the call took a little investigating. At first she didn’t realize it, but now she’s realized she saved that person’s life.
She said the calls sometimes take an emotional toll on her, especially when she’s having a bad day, but is allowed to take breaks if the call gets to her too much. She describes the job as a rollercoaster of emotions, but said the job is worth it.
San Patricio County Sheriff Oscar Rivera said he started off in telecommunications in the 70s, aying its now a requirement for police to go through dispatcher training.
“They hear the exact emotions that the caller is calling. They get to hear the distress there,” Rivera said.
Rivera said starting off as a dispatcher helps police understand the timing between the initial call from someone in need and the dispatcher’s call to the police. He said he along with police officers often fill in for dispatchers’ breaks.