New hire to improve 911 service

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

When people call 911, they know that the person who answers will be able to get them the emergency help they need.

While a dispatcher is handling that call, another is talking to police, fire or EMS units, either for that caller’s needs or for other emergencies.

It can stretch the two dispatchers who are always on duty to their limit.

With the constant increase in the number of calls coming and the increase in the number of emergency personnel, 911 dispatchers are working hard to keep up with the volume.

“If we can give our community more attention and the units we serve more attention, it just brings down that liability,” said Dubois County 911 Director Jeana Mathies. “If we are taking calls and we have to put people on hold to respond to another call, we’re not giving the full service that we could provide to them.”

Mathies will talk to the Dubois County Council Monday about funding an additional person that would act as a floater, to help fill in the schedule. She originally asked for two people, one to help with the day shift and one for the night. But the Dubois County Commissioners agreed to adding one.

“The additional hire will allow for better coverage for the dispatch,” Mathies said, “which then provides a better service to our community with less disruption in call taking.”

There are always at least two dispatchers on duty. If all positions were filled, with no one on vacation on sick, there would be three. But that is not always the case. And in those cases, schedules have been juggled to help with coverage. Even Mathies and her assistant director have put aside their administrative duties to cover shifts.

“We have 12 fire departments, six EMS units running daily, and several police agencies — Dubois County Sheriff’s [Office], Ferdinand Police, Huntingburg Police, Birdseye Town Marshal, Holland Town Marshal,” Mathies said. “We take DNR calls, which is the conservation unit. And now we have K-9 officers and school resource officers.”

Soon, 911 will take check-in calls from community corrections field officers who go to check on offenders who are in the community corrections program.

The only calls county 911 does not handle are for dispatching the Jasper Police Department and Jasper Volunteer Fire Department; those are handled directly by Jasper dispatch.

Typically, one dispatcher handles calls from the public, while the other handles dispatching and tracking emergency personnel who are responding to emergencies.

“With the call numbers that are going up yearly, it just takes just too much time of one dispatcher,” Mathies said. “One person just can’t do it anymore.”

Calls from traditional landline phones in Jasper go to Jasper dispatch; for landline phones in all other areas, those emergency calls go to county dispatch.

But over the years, more people rely on their cellphones and are getting rid of their landline phones. All emergency calls made on cellphones go to the county 911 dispatch. That includes calls from Jasper residents.

“We take all wireless calls, even voice-over IP, which people think is a landline,” Mathies said. Voice-over internet protocol, or VoIP, is actually phone service that uses the internet.

”It is viewed as a wireless call,” Mathies said.

Having the additional help for shifts will in turn allow dispatch to improve service without completely pushing the dispatchers to their limits.

“We’re getting stretched pretty thin,” Mathies said. “When we are short-staffed, it squeezes us, and the overload is a liability risk for the county.”




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