In a time of crisis, there are few sights more welcome than the arrival of police, fire or EMS personnel.
But for many people caught in an emergency situation, first responders are not the initial helpful voice they hear. That important responsibility usually rests with telecommunicators.
The Apex Police Department recently held its inaugural Telecommunications Awards Ceremony in recognition of those often overlooked and underappreciated professionals.
The event, which coincided with National Telecommunicators Week, included the presentation of certifications, service awards and the recital of the Telecommunicators Code of Ethics.
Apex Police Chief John Letteney said that much has changed with technology and training since he worked as a dispatcher more than three decades ago.
Yet, the basic principles that define a 911 operator remain the same.
“What has not changed is the importance of the function,” said Letteney. “Telecommunicators are the voice of the department and are often the first public safety professional to interact with a person in need of assistance.
“They work behind the scenes to ensure callers have a direct link to public safety services and that officers, firefighters and paramedics have a direct link to the people they are responding to assist.”
Mayor Keith Weatherly presented the telecommunicators with a town proclamation highlighting their important service to the community. He also noted how they usually remain overlooked by the public.
“I think it is very important that we recognize them,” said Weatherly. “They are highly trained and very skilled at what they do. They must deal with life and death situations on a regular basis. Apex is very fortunate to have this group of individuals.”
While 911 operators are normally associated with helping the public, they can also provide crucial assistance to keeping first responders safe in dangerous situations.
“They are trained to gather the appropriate information so that responding public safety personnel know what situation they will face and can prepare the response appropriately, bringing forth whatever resources are necessary to effectively deal with the call,” said Letteney. “Telecommunicators are also a safety resource to field units, monitoring their status and working hard to keep everyone safe.
“The service telecommunicators provide is critical to public safety. We are pleased (to recognize them) for their achievements and thank them for their hard work and dedication to the Apex community.”
Those honored at the ceremony included: Beverly Beacham, who received her advanced training certificate and 18 years of service award; David Boggs, advanced certificate and 26 years; Wayne Faber, intermediate certificate and 16 years; Shawn Williams, intermediate certificate; and Rick Thomas, 15 years.