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Jefferson names top dispatcher

April 29, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

BARDANE, W.Va. - Being a 911 dispatcher has always been a hectic job, but it's even more so in this fast-paced communication age.

Even the routine car wreck is a whole new experience, thanks to the cell phone.

The thousands of cell phone users on area roads mean there are many new sets of eyes and ears ready to report emergencies.

"For one accident, we can get as many as 20 calls," said Laura Pope, a 911 dispatcher in Jefferson County.

Pope was voted recently as one of the best in the business.

The 12-year veteran of the county's 911 dispatch center was named Dispatcher of the Year during an awards ceremony April 18.

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Besides keeping her hand in the regular dispatching details, Pope has also helped establish the use of the Emergency Medical Dispatch system in the county.

Through the use of Emergency Medical Dispatch, dispatchers can immediately begin offering lifesaving procedures over the telephone to a victim or family member once an emergency is reported.

After a 911 dispatcher receives a medical call and determines what the problem is, the dispatcher turns to a card system that outlines care procedures for every complication.

Each card takes dispatchers step-by-step through care procedures that can be relayed to the victim or someone else in the home before an ambulance arrives at the scene, Pope said.

Pope serves as the quality assurance coordinator for Jefferson County's Emergency Medical Dispatch system.

Every 911 call is recorded, and Pope regularly listens to every Emergency Medical Dispatch system call to make sure care procedures were handled properly.

"That's a major undertaking, especially with new hires," said Rita Howell, operations manager for the 911 center.

Like schools, police departments and other agencies, 911 dispatchers are feeling the effects of a growing community.

When Pope came to the center in 1990, it wasn't unusual for her to work a shift alone.

But Jeff Polczynski, director of communications for Jefferson County, has instituted many changes at the 911 center, including that at least two dispatchers must work each shift.

The 911 center is expected to increase to three dispatchers per shift by this summer and ultimately go to four dispatchers per shift - two to handle fire calls and two to handle police calls, Pope said.

"We're really growing out of the space we have," Pope said of the county's dispatch center, which shares space with the Jefferson County Health Department building along Wiltshire Road.

When Pope looks back over the years in the business, it's emergencies involving children that affect the mother of four the most.

Then there are the calls that take all the self-control in the world to dispatch without breaking into a laugh, she said.

For Pope, it was trying to explain how a fire started one day in a manure pile.

"Chief Jones at the sheriff's department ribs me about it to this day. We all have these dispatch calls where we want to crawl under the rug with," Pope said.

This is the second year the 911 awards ceremony was held. Last year, dispatchers David Holmes and Lynn Carroll shared the Dispatcher of the Year Award.

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