911 dispatchers manage delicate balance in high-stress job

April 12, 2017 12:48 PM

BALLSTON SPA - To become a 911 dispatcher, it takes hundreds of hours of classroom time and supervised training. It's a high-stress job where every second counts.

The Saratoga County 911 Communications Center is not in a big room but those there handle a big job, getting the right response to those that make that all important call for help.

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"There's no typical day for anything in the communications center,” said Jeff Reisner. "Starts out quiet at the beginning of shift and five minutes later structure fires, car accidents, whatever.”

The men and women field anywhere from 300 to 400 calls a day, 200,000 each year. Of those, about 80,000 result in calls for service. It's a delicate balance of patience, calm and immediacy.

"You are doing three or four things at the same time when seconds really count and you have to be able to work as a team," said Steve Gordon, the director of emergency communications.

WEB EXTRA: Being on the other end of the 911 call

"We never close. Police departments, ambulances, fire departments, hospitals never close," said Reisner.

So when a fire breaks out or there is an accident or the more complicated domestic disputes, it's up to these people with a headset, computer and instinct to make sense of it and get the right response to the spot. When you call, know where you are.

"A lot of people call 911 and just don't have any idea. So we have to take that few steps when they're excited to try and figure out where they are to begin with. If we don't know where they are, we can't send them help," said Reisner.

"This is a job that's hard to make it through. Typically, nationally only about 30 to 35 percent of candidates that are accepted into a training program complete and stay on the job so this is a really tough job that they do day-in and day-out for the residents," said Gordon.

It's 10 years this month that the 911 Dispatchers moved into their current building and they've certainly come a long way from when they used to take calls with a pen and paper.


WNYT Staff

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