The unsung heroes of New Castle County amid covid-19, are the ones answering your 911 call

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In hospitals all across Delaware emergency room doctors are scrambling and drenched in sweat, while critical care nurses are suiting up in protective equipment to help care for COVID-19 patients. All have quickly come to personify the heroism and tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic.

We will remember these health care workers, and their sacrifice and resilience on the front lines long after Covid-19 fades away, who risk their lives everyday, often without the necessary equipment to protect themselves or the resources to treat many of their COVID-19 patients, but there’s also another group of people serving on the front lines; the first responders of Delaware.

First Responders of Delaware are the unsung heroes of Delaware. These are the people who answer your calls for help first. For example, you dial 911 and within seconds, your 911 call is answered – usually by the first or second ring. They then begin to gather critical information from you, reassuring you, comforting you, and in some cases begin providing over-the-phone instructions for critical or life and death situations such as a cardiac event.

Believe it or not, they do all this while dispatching the appropriate apparatus to your location whether it is a police officer, volunteer firefighters, or New Castle County Paramedics. Rest assured, if you call 911, help is on the way.

Photo: New Castle County Government

But are these unsung heroes really first responders? The New Castle County Communications Center is where all the action begins. Let’s go back in time and see where it all started. According to the county, New Castle County leased the old Minquadale Elementary School located at 3601 N. Dupont Highway in late 1979. In the spring of 1980, all dispatch functions for emergency services moved into the Minquadale facility. In the fall of 1980, basic 911 came to Delaware. This one number allowed citizens who needed emergency services, police, fire, or ambulance to access them quickly. Citizens no longer had to remember the seven-digit number to reach a service. The first full year of service the amount of calls was 292,208. By 1989, the calls for service grew to 457,482.

And a helpful voice and calm, professional demeanor in crisis truly saves lives., Matt Meyer

This is where the people, who we normally refer to as “police dispatchers”, or “911 call takers” are the ones who answer your calls first. Yes, they are first responders too because they responded first – to your 911 call and are probably already providing the emergency assistance you called for.

Yes, it is telecommunications week, so what is the tradition of telecommunications week across America?

Every year during the second week of April, the telecommunications personnel in the public safety community are honored. This week-long event, initially set up in 1981 by Patricia Anderson of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office in California, is a time to celebrate and thank those who dedicate their lives to serving the public. It is a week that should be set aside so everyone can be made aware of their hard work and dedication.

In 1994, “National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week” was formally recognized and is celebrated each year during the second full week of April to coincide with National 9-1-1 Education Month.

An estimated 240 million calls are made to 9-1-1 in the U.S. each year. In many areas, 80% or more are from wireless devices.

“Our New Castle County 911 operators are the hidden heroes of our emergency operation. You may talk to them. They may give you instructions that save you or a loved ones life. Or they may be the quarterback in a managed chaos that saves a loved one’s life. Particularly during this challenging time, I wanted to pause to honor the emergency communicators in our county, across our state and country for the work they do every day. I encourage you to do so too.”, said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer. “It is a challenging career, on the phone for hours, on the receiving end of one call after another that is often the most important phone call you will ever place. The critical service they provide for our residents must not be forgotten.”

Photo: Delaware State Police

In 2019, Delaware State Police Communication personnel handled 579,042 emergency 911 calls and an additional 392,841 non-emergency calls for service, for a total of 971,883 calls. Every day the residents and visitors to Delaware depend upon the skills, expertise, and commitment of these telecommunication professionals. This is especially evident during the current Covid-19 pandemic, during which these dedicated individuals remain in the centers to ensure that every 911 call is answered and appropriate law enforcement services are rendered.

“It is with great pride that we recognize and honor our public safety communication members. They are the lifeline for providing assistance to those during their greatest time of need. Every day they answer the call to serve their community with competence, compassion, and professionalism.”, said Colonel Nathaniel McQueen Jr, Superintendent of the Delaware State Police. “I am grateful for the opportunity to work with this distinguished group of women and men.”

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