This week is National Public Safety Telecommunicators week, when local governments, public safety agencies, emergency management departments and residents around the country express gratitude for the work 9-1-1 telecommunicators do every day. "The citizens of our collective communities are safer because of the highly professional service they provide, and our emergency responders could not do their work without them," writes Thomas Owens of Frederick County, Va.
Canada is working toward a nationwide upgrade of its 9-1-1 systems and network, but the process may take longer than expected because of a small number of qualified technology vendors and total reliance on volunteers, according to Holly Barkwell, the National Emergency Number Association's Canadian director. However, despite the challenges, "We will get there," Barkwell says.
Cherokee County E9-1-1 in Georgia had to cut back on some public education events due to the pandemic, but employees have come up with new ways to do outreach, such as a monthly "Meet The Dispatcher" Q&A video posted on Facebook and videotaped readings of children's books about 9-1-1. "Hopefully, by August 2021, we can talk to the little kids about when to call and the older kids about a career choice," said Alice Fennell, the agency's head of public education.
St. Johns County, Fla., is opening a new 9-1-1 dispatch building in the next few months with improved technology, more space and the ability to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. The center will also enable the county to handle an increasing number of calls and help the Sheriff's Office and Fire Rescue Division better coordinate their responses, officials say.
Cincinnati has reached a $6 million settlement with the family of Kyle Plush, a 16-year-old boy who died in 2018 after contacting 9-1-1 when he was trapped beneath a seat in a minivan. As part of the deal, the city will hire outside experts to evaluate its 9-1-1 system and will make recommended changes, and 9-1-1 employees who received Plush's call may be interviewed again.
AT&T has introduced the FirstNet Health & Wellness Coalition, which will identify ways to use technology to support the physical and mental health of first responders. The coalition's priorities include responder resiliency and stress management.