AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — On each emergency response call, every second counts.
“Communications is the lifeblood, and the lifeblood of everything that we do,” said Capt. Jeremy Hill, Captain/911 manager, Amarillo Fire Department.
Last time, we introduced you to the men and women at the AECC, the voices of Amarillo 911.
“The dispatchers and call takers play a huge role in what we do, because they’re a vital resource for us,” said Jeff Justus, Public Information Officer for the Amarillo Fire Department.
He told us response tactics begin the moment the call comes in.
“They collect all kinds of data and information from the caller as we’re responding there. Whether it’d be dangerous animals on scene or power lines down, or are there people still trapped inside the building that haven’t made it out yet? Or maybe everyone is already out? That’s important information to us as we’re responding to that scene,” Justus explained.
While call takers and dispatchers may not be on-scene, they’re every bit as vital to crisis response.
“Everything about it depends on how we respond, and how quickly we respond,” said Cpl. Jeb Hilton, Public Information Officer for the Amarillo Police Department. “So, you know, when they get that call coming in, as soon as they can get it to us, the better. We respond to things without a whole lot of info often. But the more we can get then the better it is for our safety, and the better we can help you when it comes to getting there and knowing what’s going on at the scene.”
And while modern technology’s made location tracking easier, that’s not always the case.
“Most people don’t know this. But we don’t automatically have your location,” said Summer Strickland, Management Coordinator at the AECC. “Oftentimes we can get a somewhat location. It’s not always exact. And sometimes it’s completely off. And so it’s very important for people to know their location.”
In some cases, call takers must act as responders until help can arrive.
“We had a mother called her son, I believe was three years old, and he was having an allergic reaction, and she was very hysterical. As a mother, I completely understand. One of the things our protocol leads us to is walking them through utilizing an epi-pen. She had never used it before, and I highly encouraged her, ‘we’re gonna do this together.’ We walked her through one, something she was very fearful of doing and two, possibly saving her baby’s life,” Strickland recalled.
Strickland serves as Management Coordinator at the AECC, and said being able to handle high stress and react quickly, is part of the job.
“This is actually something that we advise all of our applicants when they’re first coming in, because of course, we want to be transparent. This job can come with a lot of stress, you don’t know what’s going to come through on that phone call. And you don’t know what you’re going to be dispatching to,” she explained.
So how do they keep their cool in the midst of the storm? An extensive amount of training.
“When we hire somebody in here, we have to get everybody state licensed. We put them through three different certifications that we have to go through for our protocol. People can come in here with absolutely no experience and we’re going to train them from the very bottom to be the absolute best telecommunicator they can be,” Strickland said.
It takes a special heart and mind to do a job like this, and Strickland is the person tasked with finding those qualities.
“We want somebody that wants to be here. So that’s something that we look for in every applicant. We also want a team mindset. Because this is a huge team effort,” she said.
So when crisis strikes, information and teamwork are your best defense.
If you’re interested in joining the team, they’re hiring. If you’d like to job shadow before you apply to see if it’s a fit for you, they’ll let you check it out.
Give her a call at 806-378-9054, or apply online here.