BISHOP, Texas — April 10-16 is National Public Safety Telecommunicator’s Week. The week is meant to honor those who serve their communities.
In Bishop, four people currently serve as dispatchers for the Bishop Police Department.
“We are the first responders. We are the ones 911 callers talk to,” said communications supervisor Norma Gonzalez, who has been with BPD for nearly 32 years. “So, asking the right questions, getting the right information to get help to you quickly, is what we’re trained for.”
Despite Bishop being a small town, the dispatchers are usually busy.
“People think because it’s a small community that we don’t get a lot of traffic. We take every single kind of call you can imagine,” said dispatcher in charge, Sammy Gutierrez. “In the last several years, traffic has picked up quite a bit. There’s a lot that goes on out there, as I said, all types of calls.”
While dispatchers are on the phone with callers, it’s important to remain calm, to keep the caller calm and get all the necessary information to send the proper help.
“You just have to remember they’re calling us because they have an emergency. Not just calling us, ‘hey how’s the weather?’" dispatcher Rhonda Payne said. “They need help, and we just have to remember to keep calm and remember our training.”
Each dispatcher has a call that has stuck with them over the years, usually involving a death.
Payne’s most memorable call, from her time as a dispatcher in Aransas Pass, hit close to home.
“I received a 911 call from my uncle, doing active CPR on my grandmother,” she said.
Payne said after dispatching medics, she had to get someone to monitor the phone for her while she stepped away for a moment.
“I went outside, and I was probably out there for two or three minutes, kind of walked around and had to gather my composure before I could go back and finish working,” she said. “When I got home, that’s a different story, I cried and cried.”
Payne said in that moment, she had to keep a level head, and do her job.
“I knew there was nothing I could do at the time, I just had to let EMS do what they had to do, and let the hospital do what they had to do,” she said.
As dispatchers get more experience, they are able to more easily handle difficult situations.
“You learn how to cope with the job,” Gonzalez said.
However, despite the ups and downs, they are happy to serve their community.
“It’s been an honor to be a public servant for my city, for our citizens,” Gonzalez said.
On Thursday, Bishop mayor Tem Miller officially declared April 10-16, 2022 National Public Safety Telecommunicator’s Week in the city.
Bishop Police Chief Edward Day called the week necessary to thank the first responders everywhere.
“It is important to recognize these men and women for the difficult and often thankless job they do while keeping our community safe,” he said. “This week is just that, a time to say ‘thank you’ to the calm voices in the chaos; our heroes behind the headsets.”