Steamboat Springs Sharon Clever is in her 24th year working with Routt County Communications, an organization that runs 24/7 - no weekends, no holidays.
On Sunday afternoon, she took a break from that work, along with the rest of the 19-person communications department and representatives from the many agencies it serves. County employees gathered at a side entrance to the Routt County Sheriff's Office for a cookout, kicking off National Public Safety Telecommunications Week.
Routt County dispatch handles calls for every emergency responder in the county. It's a job that requires a unique ability to handle stressful situations with a level head, said Routt County Communications Director Dave Hill.
"The stress of all the difficult calls - they can easily go from a call with a child who's injured and a panicked mother to a law enforcement call where the officer isn't sure of who he's dealing with : and then you have to jump to a call for a barking dog," Hill said. While providing background information on a caller for an officer might seem more pressing than a stranded raccoon, dispatchers have to handle all situations evenly, efficiently and appropriately.
"It's very difficult to handle every emergency in a darkened room. Where everyone else gets to work their adrenaline out at the scene, the dispatchers handle it all there," Hill said. The communications department works to make sure every public safety concern is channeled to the right person.
"We do emergency medical dispatch, and we also have equipment for the hearing impaired," Clever said. "And we give the jailers a lot of crap."
That playfulness just goes to show dispatch's strong relationship with the agencies it works with, Hill said.
The cookout brought out emergency personnel from agencies including the Routt County Sheriff's Office, Colorado State Patrol, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue and Colorado State Parks. Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak, who has worked with the communications office through her years of public service in the area, said dispatchers are a crucial part of the county's public safety system.
"I think it provides a very critical function to all the citizens of the county and to everyone who comes through the county," Stahoviak said of Routt County Communications.
"And I've often said you have to be a very special person to be a communications dispatcher : you have to be able to go from not doing all that much to being in the middle of an emergency very quickly."
- To reach Margaret Hair, call 871-4204
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.