Op/ed: A week to celebrate superheroes

Today marks the first day of a weeklong celebration of superheroes – April 10 to April 16 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

Every day across the nation we hear about emergencies that occur in our communities – vehicle accidents; fires; murders; rapes; robberies; identity thefts, embezzlement and other white collar crimes; explosions caused by gas leaks; tornadoes, flooding, earthquakes; terrorism; and active shooters.

We even hear about police officers and other emergency responders who are attacked and murdered. As the news reports about these events, they show us images of emergency responders, victims, witnesses, and bystanders. There’s something missing from every single news report: the public safety telecommunicator.

Every day, the 72 men and women in the Chester County Department of Emergency Services 9-1-1 Operations Center answer more than 700 calls for help – that’s more than 280,000 emergency telephone calls per year. And that's just telephone calls: How about the almost 400,000 emergency incidents they process a year?

Our telecommunicators talk to everyone from alarm companies to those whose  homes were just invaded - the mother and her children hiding in a closet hoping that the invader doesn't find them. They talk to the teenager who was just mugged and the person who was just sexually assaulted. They talk to the business owners who just discovered their trusted friend of more than 30 years has been robbing them blind. They talk the panicked father through delivering his first child. They talk to the hysterical woman whose husband of 50 years won’t wake up. They talk to every single person who needs a police officer, a firefighter, or an emergency medical professional.

These individuals talk to people frustrated about their power being out and their trash that wasn’t picked up. They talk to everyone. It’s more than the fact that these talented men and women talk to people, they do it with incredible customer service. These men and women are able to be compassionate while obtaining the information they need to get help. They do it all over the telephone. They can’t physically extend an arm and console someone – they do it through their words, their inflections.

These folks also care for every police officer, every firefighter, and every emergency medical professional. The telecommunicator is personally invested in making sure each person gets to go home to his or her family at the end of the call or shift.

These men and woman are nothing short of superheroes. So please take a moment to publicly and privately thank Chester County’s superheroes.

Robert Kagel

Director of Chester County's Department of Emergency Services

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