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National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week Celebrates Unsung Heroes

April 17--In any emergency situation the first person anyone talks to is a dispatcher. They are not only a help to citizens but to all first response personnel.

In Rowan County there are three dispatch centers. The Kentucky State Police have their own as does Morehead State University but for all other emergency management the calls go through one dispatch center.

There are seven dispatchers and someone is always there to answer the call.

Alan Caudill is the communications supervisor and 911 director. He has served as a dispatcher for 10 years.

"Somebody has to be here at all times...we can't put calls on hold or leave it unattended. We don't just answer phones, there's so much that goes into this," said Caudill. "My main goal is to make sure that help gets to those that need it and that everyone gets home to their families safely."

Kim Fannin has been a dispatcher for 14 years and Samantha Howard has served for a little over a year.

Their stories range from saving lives over the phone to being blamed for parking tickets.

"There is such a range of emotion and at times it is a lot to take on," said Fannin. "You go from being cussed at to being emotionally invested in saving a life."

"We are the most important person you will never see. When I started I had no clue what all this job would entail," said Howard. "Calls can get your adrenaline pumping and at times you are juggling several things at once."

All three agreed that the job put their own lives into perspective every day.

"You become completely focused when you are dealing with someone else's emergency. There are minutes of sheer terror followed by emotional drain and boredom," said Caudill.

"You get pretty good at understanding broken English through tears and screams," said Howard. "My personal problems are easy to handle now because of all that goes on with this job."

"This is much more than just answering phone calls...we instruct CPR over the phone, talk to people that are suicidal, deal with a range of health issues and are there when people are in incredibly emotional states," said Fannin. "It gives you an entirely new perspective."

Dispatchers serve as medical help, mechanics, emotional counselors, and operators that put the right help where it needs to be.

"Cindy Cross is one of our dispatchers and she's helped deliver three babies over the phone," said Caudill. "The worst I have ever felt was when former MPD officer Brad Gillock was in a car accident because I sent him out on that call and then listened as he needed help."

He continued, "We learn to depend on one another because until you sit in one of our chairs it is impossible to understand."

"It can be very hard at times but it also feels so good when you are able to make sure things go the best they possibly can," said Fannin. "Sometimes dispatchers are the last voice a person ever hears."

"I took a call for a sexual assault of a child...that was incredibly hard," said Howard. "Sudden deaths are hard because for a minute you think everything is okay and then suddenly it isn't."

They go through an extensive background check that includes a psychiatric evaluation, finger printing, and a polygraph before they are even admitted to a five week training course. Once they have qualified as a dispatcher they must maintain training hours each year ranging from eight to 40 hours depending on how long they have served in their position.

It is a hard job but for Caudill, Fannin and Howard but they are committed to helping people and ensuring that all the county fire departments, the MPD, the Rowan County Sheriff's Department, the Rowan County Coroners Office, Rowan County EMS and ambulance services, and the Forest Service get to the citizens of Rowan County when they need it most.

Copyright 2015 - The Morehead News, Ky.

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