Agencies across the country are celebrating National Public Safety Telecommunicator’s Week. The Wood County Dispatch Center is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by a dedicated group of people that give up holidays with their families and special occasions with loved ones to keep others safe, and largely go unrecognized.
Lead Dispatcher Scott Wolfe has worked for the Wood County Communications Center for 14 years. In that time, he has helped people deliver babies and revive their loved ones, and has helped take intoxicated drivers off the road before they have injured anyone, among many other high-stakes situations.
“Honestly I was not looking for a dispatch job when I applied here,” said Wolfe. “I was fresh out of Mid-State with an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice and was applying for jobs in law enforcement when I saw this opening and thought I would apply to get more experience in this profession and never left.”
For Wolfe, the most rewarding part of the job is being able to help people when they are having a crisis, but rarely does he get to meet those people face-to-face.
“This job is full of rewarding experiences that oftentimes, in fact more often than not, go unrecognized by the general public. Yet, at the same time, if we did not do our part people could get injured, property could be destroyed, officers could get hurt, or worse,” he said. “The only true reward is going home at the end of each day knowing that the officers and firefighters/EMT’s we watch over daily are also going home safely to their families as well.”
Helping someone through an emergency over the phone can be challenging, and not getting closure on a call is common.
“The challenging part of this job is that we never get to put faces to names,” he said. “Seldom do we get to see some of the things that people are trying to describe to us. We more often than not don’t get to see the end results of our labor, which leaves your mind wondering what happened to a person or how things ended up.”
For anyone considering a job in dispatch, Wolfe said to be ready for a lot of highs and lows.
“The unfortunate part of this job is that we often go unrecognized, almost forgotten, but yet the work we do is critical to all of the many departments that we serve and the citizens that we come into contact with on a daily basis,” he said. “If you are looking for a career that is going to put you in the spotlight, then this would not be the job for you.”
Wolfe added that dispatchers take calls that are not law enforcement, EMS, or fire-related, but still try their best to assist them in getting the help they need.
“Dispatchers are often times asked legal advice, asked when their power is going to be on, why the power is out, what the roads are like, when garbage pick-up is, why their street isn’t plowed, how to get their sink unclogged…” he said. “Please know that if for some reason your experience was maybe less than pleasurable that you may not know what the call prior to yours entailed. A lot of times we go from helping a person deliver their still-born child right into a call about the road being slippery. We do not get the chance to walk away and take a breath. We have to keep on doing what we do to the best of our abilities on each and every call.”