In honor of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, the Round Rock Police Department will be featuring some of its dispatchers and explaining how each role is a bit different.
In Round Rock Communications, everyone helps out with answering 911 calls. But for the position of Call Taker, this is their main priority. Call Takers answer about 100 calls per shift. During the Texas Freeze in February, double that. While most Texans were snowed in, Lani Kaululaau didn’t miss a shift. In fact, she picked up extra shifts to help out. She slept a few nights at the PD while her home was without power. Her favorite thing about working in Communications is her coworkers, who she refers to as family. They help each other out and pull together through intense 911 calls and personal issues. “We all have each other’s backs.”
Public Safety Telecommunicators are often referred to as the first, first responders. When a 911 call comes in, that caller is likely in need of Police, Fire, or EMS. That’s when Dispatchers come in. In Round Rock, we refer to Dispatchers as Public Safety Communications Operators. Jillian Garland is one of our PSCO’s and each call brings a series of rapid-fire decisions she has to make: How urgent is this call for service? How many Officers or Fire personnel are needed? Which Officers are closest and not actively working another incident? Meanwhile, other calls are coming in, each with their own set of decisions. This is the life of a PSCO.
Public Safety Communicators are highly-trained professionals. Each Call Taker and Dispatcher goes through about 6 to 8 months of in-house training. Then its another week of instruction with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement culminating in a test before they can become certified to work the phones on their own. Communications Training Officer Jennifer Evans helps to guide each new hire through this process. She takes it seriously because these trainees will one day become her teammates and Public Safety Communications is truly a team sport.
There’s multi-tasking, and then there’s Communications during a busy shift. As one of our Public Safety Communications Supervisors, Deborah oversees what happens on the phones and radios during a major event. Someone is taking 911 calls as they come in, often multiple witnesses all reporting on the same event. Another operator is dispatching Officers and Fire personnel. Someone else is calling for ambulances and tow trucks. Someone else is alerting SWAT, Detectives, and Command Staff. In between those calls, operators are looking up criminal history and call history. Meanwhile, 911 calls unrelated to the major event are still coming in. It’s an orchestra and Deborah is one of our maestros.