WTAJ ORIGINALS: An inside look at a local dispatch center

WTAJ Originals

EBENSBURG, CAMBRIA COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Being a 911 dispatcher isn’t a job for everyone.

When you call 911, there are a handful of people ready to take your call and direct you to the needed service, but for those dispatchers, it isn’t always easy.

“There’s a lot of stress behind when you’re picking up those calls, not knowing what it is on the other side,” says Cambria County 911 Supervisor, Robbin Melnyk.

She says just answering the call, is only a small part of the job.

“They also have to be able to type notes into an incident or type details into an incident as they’re doing all of these things.”

911 dispatcher, Joy Shutty, says not only are they talking to the caller, but also people who are responding to the scene.

“It can be extremely hard because we have to listen obviously to what the caller is telling us and the importance of their emergency, but at the same time, we’re answering field units that are talking to us on the radio. We have to be able to differentiate what each person is saying.”

Multi-tasking and listening are skills that aren’t taught, says Melnyk.

“You can’t really teach someone how to listen or teach someone how to multi-task so you’ve got to have some entry level ability that we then can develop into what’s important. The longer you’re here, the better those skills become.”

Some calls can be traumatic and Shutty says dispatchers occasionally need to reset themselves.

“Sometimes if we take a real serious call, we may leave the floor for a few minutes to take a break, debrief, take a deep breath and reset our minds. Then come in and we’re ready for the next emergency that calls.”

Shutty says it’s important because listening to each caller is the top priority.

“They deserve to be treated like the only caller so we have to be able to treat them like they are and give them our full attention.”

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