PRESTONSBURG – April 10-16 is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week.
The Floyd County Times recently had the opportunity to talk to some of the staff at the Prestonsburg 911 office.
Gerald Clark, Assistant Prestonsburg Police Chief is also 911 Dispatch Supervisor. The Prestonsburg 911 started in 1997.
Prestonsburg 911 currently has six full time employees. Heather Conley has worked as a dispatcher for 17 years and is currently day shift supervisor. Ida Lafferty has also been a dispatcher for 17 years and is currently evening supervisor. Jennifer Tussey has been a dispatcher for 10 years. Jeff Rice has worked as a dispatcher for seven years. Erica Meade has worked as a dispatcher for two years. John Hunt is retired from law enforcement and has worked off and on as a dispatcher for over 20 years. Celina Thomas, who is also a Prestonsburg Firefighter fills in when needed on a part-time basis. Two dispatchers work every shift. Shifts are 12 hour long.
To become a Prestonsburg 911 dispatcher an individual must first put in an application at Prestonsburg City Hall. If an individual is offered a job, they must pass a background check and drug screening before they go to Richmond, Kentucky for five and a half weeks of National Crime Information NCI Training. Upon return from the training new dispatchers will continue to train on the job with veteran dispatchers and remain on probation for one year.
“Being a 911 dispatcher is a rewarding career. Knowing we are often the first line of communication between a caller and first responder safety, it is important we remain calm, alert, and in control for every 911 emergency we receive,” said Heather Conley, Dayshift Supervisor.
Dispatchers do more work than most people imagine. Dispatchers not only answer the phones for 911 calls, they also communicate via radio to multiple agencies such as fire, police, emergency medical services, Kentucky State Police, Floyd County Rescue, and Floyd County Sheriff’s office. They also must be able to operate multiple computers and data bases such as the Interact CAD. The Interact CAD is a computer aided dispatch, records management, mobile data, and offender management software used by 911 centers nationwide. Prestonsburg 911 also use Link, a computer electronic arrest warrant management system.
Ross Shurtleff has been with Prestonsburg City Police for a year and worked as a dispatcher for a combined four years for the Kentucky State Police and the City of Pikeville before he left to pursue a career as a police officer. Shurtleff although an officer continues to keep his dispatcher training up to date.
“For officers it is comforting to know that as long as we have our radio, our dispatchers have our back. Officers are the eyes and ears during an emergency situation. We are the ones at the scene seeing and hearing what is going on. The dispatchers are the hands and feet of the emergency. They are the ones that contact social services for us if we stop a drunk driver with a child in the car, or contact EMS if medical help is needed. People should be mindful of the hard work these individuals do, and there is a reason they ask the questions they ask,” said Shurtleff, Prestonsburg Police Officer.
The City of Prestonsburg is currently accepting applications for 911 Dispatcher. If you are interested in working at Prestonsburg 911 stop by City Hall located at 200 North Lake Drive in the same building as Prestonsburg Police and Fire Departments to complete an application.
Andrea Saddler is a reporter for The Floyd County Times. She can be reached at 606/886-8506.