BONNERS FERRY — 911 dispatchers respond to emergency and non-emergency calls. They provide dispatch and communication support services for law enforcement, fire, emergency and related services. They are often the life line for people, but the importance of their job is often overlooked.
But not this week. April 14-20 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, and the Boundary County Sheriff’s Office came together to recognize the 911 dispatchers, present and former, on Monday, April 15.
Boundary County Sheriff’s Office 911 Administrator Crystal Denton, who has been dispatching for 29 years, organized the event, complete with a decorated cake and coffee. They invited the former dispatchers to the event to come and see the changes and improvements made to the system and Denton handed out T-shirts to the current dispatchers as a thank you for their service.
“It is a hard job and you guys have gone through a lot of changes here with new record systems, new monitors being added, and I just appreciate the patience everyone has had as we made a transition here,” said Boundary County Sheriff Dave Kramer to the dispatchers in the room.
Kramer was pleased with the event. He explained that the 911 dispatchers are not as visible as other parts of the sheriff’s office, like the deputies out on patrol.
“The job they do is so critical to all of our first responders, because they handle all the calls coming in and dispatch police, fire, medical, and it can get very busy in here,” said Kramer. “It can be stressful at times because someone may be upset, or angry, or in a crisis — this is the first person that they talk to. So I am just proud of all of them; just a great crew and I wanted to recognize them.”
The job is not always an easy one, but it is one that the dispatchers are very dedicated to. For Denton, her favorite thing about the job is “being able to help people.”
One of the attendees, Boundary County Sheriff’s Office 911 Dispatcher Anthony L. Navarro, has been at the job for three years. He came from a family that included many first responders and when he was choosing a career, it just made sense to him.
“It is a good feeling to know that you are helping, especially when the outcome is great,” said Navarro. “That is probably my favorite part — the fact that you are helping out the community that you live in.”
One of the former dispatchers to attend was Jane Kirby. She became a Dispatcher when she was 50 years old.
“When I was 50 years old I was bored,” she said with a laugh.
She decided to attend a course for reserve officers.
“So I attended the first meeting. When I went to the second meeting, the chief deputy said that the sheriff wanted to see me in his office,” said Kirby, who was afraid the sheriff would tell her she was too old.
“I came down the next morning and went to the sheriff’s office,” she said. “He said we need you to go to work for us.”
Kirby was put to work as a 911 dispatcher, but times were quite different back then.
“There were no addresses or street names back then. That was in ‘84, I think,” explained Kirby. “People had to tell you how to get to their house and what color it was.”
As people enjoyed the cake and coffee, the current dispatchers enjoyed sharing the new systems with the former employees, including new record management system, computer monitors, and the physical structure of the place.
“I wanted to invite some of the former dispatchers because we have made a lot of changes,” said Kramer.
People mingled on Monday, a mix of law enforcement and dispatchers, sharing stories and reuniting with old coworkers, and the dispatchers — normally just a voice on the phone — received the recognition that they deserved.