By Katie Gibbs
The employees at the Bell County Communications Center answer all 911 calls within the county and dispatch first responders to the scene. The people who work at the center are everyday heroes who can make a difference in callers’ lives, because a second can change the outcome.
Not everyone can work at the communications center as a dispatcher. Dispatchers go through months of classroom training and are supervised on the floor before they are on their own. The job can be very stressful and it’s important to have a good family support system to go home to.
“If I’m having a problem, I will go talk to somebody,” said Jill Bohac, a dispatcher. “Because they have either been there and done that or they can empathize to that situation because they have been through something similar.”
Every call they answer is important. They get all relevant information, such as what is happening and where, so they can relay it to the responders, who can head towards the site without having to wait for more information. For callers that don’t speak English, they have an interpreter that repeats everything they say.
Sarah Watson enjoys helping people when they call and is glad that the job never gets boring, because every day it’s always something different.
“It can wear you down after a while, having people yell at you or be angry because maybe somebody doesn’t get out as fast as they want them to, or they don’t realize that there are other priority calls,” Watson said.
A common misconception that people make is that dispatchers automatically know where their callers are. That’s not the case.
“When people call, we do our absolute best to try to get a location from your phone if we can, but we can’t always,” said Watson. “Sometimes the technology doesn’t allow us to do that.”
Bohac knows many of the local police officers, but mentioned that it can sometimes be years before she would meet them in person. Working on the job, she got to know their voices and personalities, and has developed friendships with some of them.
She recalls a funny story about meeting one of the officers while shopping at Wal-Mart. “We were in the vegetable section and I walked over to him and introduced myself. I only knew him because I recognized his voice because that’s all I ever hear is his voice,” said Bohac.