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The unsung heroes

This is Public Service Telecommunications Week in Indiana. Pictured here, Julie Stults, right, Anthony Lorton, left, and Connie Gregory field phone calls and relay information to first responders from the Henry County Emergency Services E-911 center.

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

When people in Henry County call for help, the first voice they hear isn’t a police officer, a fire fighter or a paramedic. It is a dispatcher.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

Emergency dispatchers don’t wear a special uniform or badge that help them stand out in a crowd. They don’t use sirens and flashing lights to get to the scene of the emergency.

They are already there, at the other end of the phone.

Henry County’s 911 dispatchers are expected to stay cool, calm and collected while relaying potentially lifesaving information to the callers – who might be having the worst experience of their lives – and the emergency responders who are heading to the scene to help.

“The men and women of Henry County Emergency Services E-911 take pride in their profession and truly care about the citizens of Henry County,” said co-director Scott Pinkerton. “We strive to provide the best information and assistance possible to make our community safe, and as the first line of support, we are prepared and trained to assist in any emergency.”

These Henry County men and women are Danny Floyd, JD Estell, Julie Stults, Patricia Aaron, Matt Crabtree, Anthony Lorton, Robert Griggs, Ken Custer, Jay Jackson, Tammi Nicholson, Anita Pierce, Valerie Boggs, Lisa Fullman, Bryan Reed, Misty Morgan, Jeremy Lorton, Kimberly Gross, Connie Gregory and Tyler Swardson.

Public safety dispatchers are trained to help calm and reassure the caller. They gather information that gets first responders to the right house, which can be difficult in dense neighborhoods or in areas where the homes aren’t clearly marked.

New Castle-Henry County EMS Chief Josh Russell said the dispatchers often get overlooked or taken for granted when it comes to saving lives.

Russell said 911 dispatchers can guide the caller through the steps of CPR or offer self-aid tips that can be the difference between life and death before an ambulance shows up.

“They are a critical part of the system,” Russell said.

Dispatchers are also the voice on the other end of the radio when New Castle police officers call for backup.

New Castle Assistant Police Chief Justin Wardlow called the local dispatchers “the heroes behind the scene.”

“They are our lifeline,” Wardlow said. “They play an exceptionally vital role to the totality of emergency services. They are irreplaceable.”

Henry County Sheriff Ric McCorkle agreed.

“Our 911 dispatchers do a very, very good job,” McCorkle said.

The county dispatchers are well-trained and professional assets to the community, Sheriff McCorkle said.

Wardlow said being a dispatcher is often a thankless job. The Indiana State Police called public safety dispatchers “one of the most important and under-recognized components of public safety.”

In order to help the public better understand the role that 911 dispatchers play, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb issued a proclamation declaring April 8-14 to be the 2018 Public Safety Telecommunications Week.

“The State of Indiana is fortunate to be blessed with these professionals in our public safety,” Holcomb said.