County honors 9-1-1 dispatchers as 'heroes'

Jeffrey Parish

Recognizing the importance of the county’s 9-1-1 dispatchers as “unsung heroes,” the Lawrence County commissioners, in keeping with a national observance, declared this week through Saturday as 9-1-1 Telecommunicators Week.

County public safety director Jeffrey Parish attended the commissioners meeting Tuesday with members of his management team to receive their accolades. With him were county 9-1-1 coordinator Rich Hoover and 9-1-1 shift supervisors Jimmy Donston, a 17-year veteran dispatcher, Michael Stout, who has 13 years of experience, and Cassi Jannetti, who has been a call dispatcher for five years.

Altogether, the center has 16 full-time and two part-time 9-1-1 dispatchers or telecommunicators. The others are: Mary Stone (20 years of service), Cory Krueger (seven years), Ryan Edgell (six years), Allison Farris Paglia (six years), Amber Beahr (five years), Victor Fortuna (five years), James Marino (part-time, three years), Brynn Waylonis (two years), Sarah O’Laughlin (two years), Alyssa Milligan (one year), Morgan Hill (part-time, one year), Alexis Herold (eight months), Adrianna Lutes (eight months), Amy Oneil (eight months) and Steven Tomon (eight months). 

Commissioner Dan Vogler pointed out that county government has two departments that operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year —  the 9-1-1 dispatch center and the county jail. 

“You’re on the front lines,” he told the dispatchers. “It’s initiated where you folks sit.”

That was one of the major reasons why the previous board of commissioners initiated the construction of a new public safety building in Hickory Township, Vogler said. He pointed out that the dispatcher’s role has the potential to impact everyone’s life in the county.

“An emergency can affect every last resident of this county, from a newborn baby to someone in their very senior years,” he said.

“When we think of first responders, the first thing that naturally comes to mind are police officers, firefighters and EMTs,” commissioner chairman Morgan Boyd said. “But just as crucial to the whole system are the telecommunicators or 9-1-1 operators. Without you, the police aren’t getting to the scene, the fire department’s not getting to the fire and EMS workers aren’t getting to the guy who’s having a heart attack. We certainly appreciate your service to the community.” 

Commissioner Loretta Spielvogel, a retired police officer, remembered how the New Castle Police Department did its own call dispatching before the county had a 9-1-1 center and she worked in that job.

“It’s the beginning of anything in any type of situation,” she said. “It’s a seat that’s very important because you dictate how that response is going to go. So I humbly say to you, thank you for what you do. You are the unsung heroes of every emergency situation who are under-appreciated.

“When any emergency happens and 25 calls are coming in at the same time about that same emergency, whether it be trees down, fires or accidents ... what you do is certainly vital to the safety of every person involved.”

Parish, who oversees the 9-1-1 call center, noted this is an annual, national observance that started in the 1980s. He said he is grateful to the many businesses that have provided food — breakfast, lunches and dinners in recognition of the workers and their long shifts.

“It’s not a job that everybody can do,” he said, “and there’s a lot of training involved.”

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Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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