“Imagine calling 911 and not getting an answer,” Grayson County Emergency Management Coordinator Sarah Somers said to County commissioners Tuesday morning.
“Imagine a deputy sheriff radioing in for backup and receiving no answer,” she continued as she introduced a proclamation declaring April 13 through 19 as Public Safety Telecommunications week in Grayson County. She said though she was in front of the Grayson County Commissioners Court, the proclamation was really designed to recognize and celebrate all of the 911 operators in the County including those who work in the Sherman Police Department, the Denison Fire Department, the Whitesboro Police Department, as well as those in who work at the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office.
“Imagine a job where every telephone call you answered could be a matter of life or death. Imagine a job where every word of every telephone call you have with the public is recorded,” Somers continued.
The people who staff the four 911 call centers in Grayson County don’t have to imagine, they live it day in and day out. They work shifts on every holiday, in the wee hours of the night and during the worst weather.
And Somers said, they are the true first responder in most situations. Without that voice on the line, the folks who come to the rescue don’t know someone needs to be rescued.
While those firemen, law enforcement officers or emergency medical personnel are on their way, it is the 911 operator that gives instructions and reassurance to people facing some of the worst situations of their lives.
“Because these public safety responders are heard and not seen by the public, the unintentional result is that these critical, essential public safety professionals are often hidden from view, forgotten and overlooked,” the proclamation approved Tuesday said.
And that is just wrong, Somers said. She teasingly asked county commissioners how many roads each has in their precinct and then said there are between 1,300 and 1,400 miles in the County and 911 operators have to know how to get first responders to everyone of them within their jurisdiction. Often that includes being able to tell them how to get there even if critical things like road signs are missing.
“We celebrate the heroism of the firefighters, EMS and law enforcement who save lives everyday, but often forget the absolute first responders who heroically answer and respond those for help first,” she said.
She then pointed out that there weren’t any 911 operators in the Commissioner’s Courtroom Tuesday. That, she said, is because the area doesn’t have nearly enough of them to do the job they do and they don’t get to go out to events like the one held Tuesday.
“So we are asking you to join the rest of the nation,” she by declaring April 13 through 19 as Public Safety Telecommunicator week.
Commissioner Phyllis James moved that they approve the proclamation and Commissioner David Whitlock seconded it.
No one voted against it.
“On behalf of the Court, Sarah, please pass our thanks and appreciation on to those folks who work for us because they do a very crucial job. … They are not seen, and they certainly don’t get the recognition they deserve,” said Grayson County Judge Drue Bynum.