What do we usually think about when we think about responding or reacting to what we perceive to be an emergency? Normally, for most of us, our first reaction is to call 911 emergency services. Amazingly and gratefully, these brave men and women, we proudly refer to as First Responders are in action, doing whatever is needed to help saves lives, care for the sick or injured, put out fires, transport individuals as necessary, etc. etc..... well you know the drill.
As a society we have become so enamored with the portrayal and glorification of cop movies and fire emergency crews in action, and I thank God they are there for us, yet we have given little to no thought to those unsung heroes working behind the scenes.
Have we ever really given any thought to the men and women who are our “First” First Responders?
For me personally, my answer is a big NO, until now. Recently I had an opportunity to tour the Prescott Regional Communications Center (PRCC). As I entered this well secured facility of brick, steel and security cameras all around, I had no idea what to expect. What I saw and what I learned is we have an extremely devoted and well- trained group of citizens without whom, those individuals which appear at our doors in response to the 911 call, would have a much more difficult time.
Here is what I saw and heard.
A group of dedicated men and women serving our community taking our 911 calls, (so well trained), they handle multiple calls simultaneously. With no less than 8, (eight), yes I said 8 monitors in front of them, these unsung heroes of the command center are taking calls from panicked individuals, monitoring and or directing police vehicles, coordinating fire department roll outs and the needs for ambulances, communication with helicopters etc., and they do all of this seamlessly like a well-orchestrated symphony.
You might think WOW, I never knew this was happening behind the scenes in our city of Prescott, and why would I give much thought to this taking place. Here is why we all need to know about these brave and superbly trained individuals. They do this, not just for the city of Prescott, this command center is supporting, coordinating, and monitoring all of these various activities for approximately a 400 square mile area. They are also in communication with not less than 6 other municipalities or communities, referred to as partnerships, to help safeguard life and property. Let that sink in.
The symphony conductors of this well-functioning facility are Police Administrator Jim DeLung PhD, and Mr. Robb Martin PRCC Manager. These gentlemen not only oversee the facility, they also guide their staff in handling the budgeting needs of the facility, and overseeing and negotiating contracts for such items as technology needs. Yes, they have to deal with bureaucracy. As much as these gentlemen have on their plate, which is quite a bit, they do what they do because they love serving their community and they care about their people/employees, without whom tens of thousands of lives per year might not be with us.
Yet, what about the lives and well-being of these “First” First Responders? Let’s start with on the job training. It takes a minimum of 8 months to reach a level of proficiency to learn to deal with the hectic pace of this command center. Can you imagine the stress and potential early burn out of these life- saving angels which we have come to rely on? Think about how calm and professional they are on the phone, yet try to imagine if you can, dealing with hundreds if not thousands of emergency calls with little time in between to catch your breath. The challenges are enormous. Nonetheless, this facility and these life-saving angels not only persevere, they rise above and beyond all these challenges.
Lastly: I started this article indicating “I“ had the opportunity to tour this life saving facility. Allow me to correct this reference. It was Mr. Steve Zipperman, candidate for the Arizona State Senate Seat for LD-1, and I both taking this tour.
This facility like so many other services we rely on, looks outwardly for true leadership in government to step up and speak out on their behalf and identify how our elected officials can do better and improve these life-saving services. Apparently, Mr. Zipperman (votezipperman.com) cares about our community and is taking the time to learn about issues that will likely come across his desk when he takes office.