SAN ANGELO, TX – The past week has been National Telecommunicators Week and San Angelo's 9-1-1 dispatchers say that they don't do the job for the recognition, they do it for the experience of helping people.
San Angelo Dispatch consists of 20 dispatchers and and they have to have at least four of them on the job at all times of the day. Being a dispatcher can be a stressful job that can consist of long hours and consist of handling people "at what could be the worst moment of their life."
Dispatcher Pedro Rodriguez has taken a different career path. Rodriguez has been a dispatcher for a year and one month but he says the job is different from his previous job.
"The only other long term job that I've had was working at a bank," said Rodriguez. "There you would have a personal connection with people but here you get a call when people are needing help."
Rodriguez went to school for criminal justice and plans to be a police officer. He believes that the route he took as a dispatcher will make him a better officer just by hearing and doing the job he needs to do to get the police, firefighters, and EMS were they need to go.
The leader of San Angelo's Public Safety Communications is San Angelo Police Sgt. Chris Carpenter. He has been with the SAPD for over 27 years and 5 years ago he took the lead of the dispatch team. He considers his team as the very first responders due to them actually being the first people to hear about the problem.
"These guys have to be mentally strong with the situation that they are dealing with," said Carpenter. "The have to be the calm in the storm for these people who may be having the worst moment of their life."
According to Carpenter, anyone that is willing to serve the public can be a dispatcher. The training process takes six to eight months to teach dispatchers not only how to handle the situations but to learn the CAD computer dispatch system.
"If they have that will and drive to be here to and to help people," said Carpenter. "They have to be willing to put others above their selves and that's the type of people we have here."
Among the most difficult parts of the job is dealing with the stressful events all day and then having to go home at the end of the day. "They have their own families and such but when a tragedy happens they're here to make sure the public gets the help they need" said Carpenter. Rodriguez explained that at the end of the day you have to leave it at the office.
"The things that I have heard in the past year that I've been here has really taught me that you have to be mentally strong to work here," explained Rodriguez.
Throughout this week of appreciation of the 9-1-1 call center, the dispatchers have received gifts from many businesses around town. They received gifts from H-E-B, Little Caesars, Concho Valley Family Dental, Beef Jerky Outlet, Olive's Nursery, and NobiliTea. Carpenter says that they have also received many thanks from officers and firefighters for the job that they do.