Every single phone call for police, firefighters or emergency medical services within the county comes through the Ada County 911 Emergency Dispatch Center.
Just this year, dispatchers have taken nearly 90,000 calls, and are trained to keep a cool head because they never know what’s going to be happening on the other end of the line when they answer.
This week is Public Safety Telecommunications Week and KTVB got an inside look at day-to-day operations at the dispatch center.
Seven to 14 dispatchers are kept on staff at all times at the Ada County 911 Emergency Dispatch Center. And while the job can be tiring, emotional and chaotic, many who work at the center find their job to be extremely rewarding.
“We dispatch for police, fire, and paramedics all throughout Ada County in this dispatch center,” said dispatcher Courtney Lyskoski.
Dispatchers are grouped into pods and field hundreds of calls each day.
“We need to know your location, we need to verify your phone number in case we call you back, we have safety questions we have to ask for our officers for you,” Lyskoski said.
And don’t hang up the phone until dispatchers tell you to.
“If you live in Ada County we can provide lifesaving instructions, CPR, first aid, all kinds of things over the phone while we are getting help to you,” Lyskoski said.
Just minutes after this interview, a dispatcher walked a caller through CPR.
“You don’t ever know what’s on the end of that line, which is incredible about the work these dispatchers do, they have to be ready for anything and they have to manage it appropriately to make sure that the right response gets to the right place as quickly as possible,” said Andrea Dearden, director of communication for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office.
Dearden also says that their call system is not connected to the internet to protect the center from any potential hackers like what recently happened in Baltimore, Maryland when the city’s dispatch system was down for hours.
“We have those two systems intentionally unconnected, disconnected so that there isn’t a risk from some of those cyber attacks that you hear about coming in through the internet, that’s not a possibility here,” Dearden said.
Instead, dispatchers can focus on their jobs, which they say is extremely rewarding.
“The first CPR that I provided was one week out of training and had that gentleman call when he got out of a coma to speak to me and thank me for saving his life,” Lyskoski said.
And for non-emergency calls...
“A duck with a broken wing, call the non-emergency number please, we care about the duck but it’s not a 911,” Lyskoski said.
Here are some tips for 911 callers: remain calm, speak loudly and clearly, know location and landmarks, and listen and answer questions.