April 10-16 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, when Defense Logistics Agency Installation Support at Richmond recognizes the hard work and dedication of our nation’s emergency telecommunications professionals — more commonly known as 911 dispatchers.
The Emergency Communications Center at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, is unique at DLA, said Robert Williams, DLA Richmond Fire and Emergency Services’ training chief. It is the only such center at DLA staffed by dedicated contract personnel from The Greater Richmond ARC. “This successful partnership between ARC and DLA Public Safety has been in existence over 10 years,” said Williams.
For DLA employees at DSCR, the ECC, in Building 201, it is the place to call in an emergency. Call 911 to reach the ECC from any landline phone at DSCR, and it will be answered directly by the ECC staff. A call from a mobile phone at DSCR will be answered by Chesterfield Communications and transferred to DSCR’s ECC. Call 911 to request the police or an ambulance or to report a fire or release of hazardous materials.
“The DLA Richmond and Chesterfield ECCs have worked diligently to ensure the relationship is strong and the transition is seamless to you, the caller,” said Williams. The non-emergency number for the ECC is (804) 279-4888.
Williams said the ECC is in the midst of a multi-year technology overhaul to significantly improve its efficiency and effectiveness. This will bring an enhanced 911 system that gives the dispatcher the caller’s name, phone number and address. It will also upgrade the system for recording and storing calls to the ECC and add a computer-aided dispatch system to give the dispatcher more precise location information to give to first responders.
The ECC is staffed by a combination of full- and part-time personnel, with two on duty at all times. The staff of 12 is led by Robert Greene, Greater Richmond ARC program manager, and Jessica Martin, the ECC lead dispatcher.
Being the lead dispatcher is a great responsibility, according to Williams, who recently interviewed Martin to find out more about her.
What motivated you to become a dispatcher? The excitement and satisfaction of helping someone that may ... be in a life-threatening situation and knowing I can make a difference in someone’s life is highly rewarding. I have been in the emergency services field close to 16 years, working in firefighting/EMS and telecommunications.
How long have you been a dispatcher here at DSCR? I’ve worked here as a dispatcher for a little more than nine years.
What do you find rewarding about being a dispatcher? The most rewarding aspect of the job would be being able to provide assistance to the customer in a time of need, whether it's a parking issue or a life-threatening emergency.
What do you find challenging about being a dispatcher? It can be challenging trying to get the public to understand what our job really entails. We don’t just sit here; the phones are constantly ringing, running driver’s-license checks, monitoring alarms and other duties assigned.
What would you like everyone at DSCR to know about what you do in the ECC as a dispatcher? We are not miracle workers. Have patience and understand we will assist in any way possible, but we are the information-takers and disseminate information to the correct branch of emergency services. We monitor over on Center cameras; dispatch police, fire, medical and hazardous material personnel; answer phones; and assist customers at the walk-up window…there is never a dull moment.
What do you like to do when you are not working? I like to spend time with my family and friends. I also enjoy crafts, cooking and baking and now spending my evenings at the soccer field with my little one.
If you had a personal motto, what would it be? Treat others as you wish to be treated, and be careful what you say; you never know what struggles someone is having.