Dispatchers recognized for ‘silent service’

Assistant Managing Editor
The first line of communication between the public and emergency responders, dispatchers perform a “silent service.”
Their duties, which often go unseen by the public, are being recognized this week through Saturday, as part of National Telecommunicators Week.
Auglaize County Commissioner Don Regula read a proclamation on Thursday declaring the week of April 14 through April 20 in honor of the service provided by the seven dispatchers with the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office. He then presented the dispatchers with a copy of the resolution.
Sheriff Al Solomon said the dispatchers serve as the first line of communications with the public and they put in hours that aren’t seen or realized.
Specifically mentioning their work during several serious situations in the past year and a half, Solomon said the dispatchers handled those calls very well.
“These individuals are the front door of the Sheriff’s Office,” Regula said. “Whenever there is a problem, an emergency, they handle it. I thank them for all their endeavors.”
Michelle Hunlock, who has been a dispatcher with the office for more than 22 years, said she originally started the job because she thought it sounded interesting.
“Once I started, I fell in love with it,” Hunlock said. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Robyn Barrett, who grew up hearing stories about a grandfather who was police chief of Waynesfield in the 1960s, has been on the job for 12 years and said it was something she always wanted to do, it just took a long time to get her foot in the door.
Both agree that the job has changed tremendously from when they started, however. Not only have there been a lot of changes in technology, but Hunlock said the type of calls they are getting is different, too.
“The calls we are getting are way more serious,” Hunlock said, mentioning several recent calls involving guns. “It’s very challenging. We have the lives of all the deputies in our hands.”
She said it all adds up to an even more stressful job that keeps their hearts going.
“The last two years, we’ve had deputies involved in shootings,” Hunlock said. “I worked 20 years and never had anything like that. It’s a lot more serious for everybody in here.”
She said even 911 calls being made from cell phones have changed how they do their job, with sometimes 20 people calling on one fire or accident.
Barrett said it’s not that anything was any less important before, but it has been moved up to a different scale now.
She said public education could go a long way in helping them do their jobs even better.
“A lot of times they call and think we know where they are. We don’t,” Barrett said. “People need to know where they are and always be aware of their surroundings.”
Also, she advised that even if 911 is dialed accidentally, don’t hang up.
“We are here to serve and protect,” Barrett said. “We are here to get help. Help us better help you.”
She said the work the dispatchers do in the office is more important than most people ever realize.
National Telecommunicators Week has been observed in the United States since 1981 and is designated as a time when citizens can thank those dispatchers who answer emergency calls and dispatch personnel and equipment during times of crisis, often working tirelessly behind the scenes to help as needed.
Reading the resolution, Regula said Auglaize County considers the services of the public safety telecommunicators to be vital to the interests of the community and recognizes the services of them to be in the best interest and safety of the county.
“You are there when we need you, when we call,” Regula said.
Commissioner John Bergman agreed, saying they have a tough job.
Commissioner Doug Spencer also thanked the dispatchers for their service.