Boone County celebrates dispatchers

NPSTW became a national event in 1994.

The Boone County Telecommunications Office is celebrating National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, albeit a little quietly.

There are no brightly-colored banners, balloons or large thank-you cards in the main room. In fact, operator Paul Steimel passes along a call thanking a police officer but receives none for himself.

Supervisor Suzanne Fred said no college or high school students have called in to say thank you this week.

“That’s typical,” Fred said. “We don’t expect people to call and thank us. If it doesn’t happen we’re not disappointed. We’re just doing our thing.”

Patricia Anderson of California created NPSTW in 1981, according to a link on the Columbia Police Officer's Association's Facebook page.

NPSTW became a national event in 1994 after a Congressional procedure made it permanent. The week is a time to celebrate the services 911 dispatchers provide for the public with a party or perhaps an award, according to the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials NPSTW 2013 website.

Fred said the administration provided the office with a meal from Lutz Barbeque on Wednesday.

Operation Manager Brian Maydwell’s wife made cookies, and the office received an anonymous poem titled “Protecting the Three.”

Steimel requested the poem not be published because it referenced the emotional distress dispatchers can feel when they work with police, fire and medical departments.

Fred said operators often get overtime pay because there are usually five people in the dispatch center, the minimum number. Dispatchers work with all of Boone County except for Centralia Police and Fire and the MU Police Department. They also coordinate with surrounding counties and Boone County Public Works.

“It feels good to help folks in their time of crisis or emergency,” Fred said. “It’s not an expected thing for folks, but it’s nice. It’s very much appreciated.”

She said dispatchers have to be dedicated and willing to spend extra time continuing their training.

“It’s not a job,” Fred said. “It’s a lifestyle.”

Still, Fred said it was good to be recognized, even a little bit, for the hard work the dispatchers put in.

“It’s always nice to hear thank you,” Fred said.

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