Before police officers, firefighters, or EMS workers can come to the rescue, telecommunicators are the first people to help you.
They’re working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to keep you safe, and are the “fourth leg of emergency services,” according to Cambria County EMA Director & 911 Coordinator Art Martynuska.
“When other people are going home, sleeping, or spending holidays with their families, our 911 dispatchers and dispatchers all across the Commonwealth are on duty,” Martynuska told 6 News.
For National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, officials with the Wolf Administration are recognizing the hard work of telecommunicators in Cambria County.
Jeffrey Boyle, the Deputy Director for 911 Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), stopped by the 911 Center Thursday afternoon.
“911 telecommunicators are the lifeline for Cambria County’s residents and visitors to quickly get help in emergency situations. They are a key part of the emergency response team, who do things such as provide life-saving instructions to callers, coordinate resources to respond to incidents, monitor field responders to make sure they have everything they need for their safety, and perform many more duties to serve and protect the public,”
Officials in Cambria County say 30 telecommunicators answered over 220,000 calls for assistance last year alone.
“That person is calling 911 for the first time. That person is in panic. That person is going through chaos. We have a person calm, with a 911 telecommunicator answering that phone,” said Tom Chernisky, President Cambria County Commissioner.
About 2,500 telecommunicators in Pennsylvania working at 61 county-based emergency call centers process nearly 14.5 million requests for emergency assistance each year.
“They take these phone calls every day but for the person on the other side of the phone it is possibly the worst day of their life,” said Cambria County Commissioner Scott Hunt.
Like many industries across the nation, emergency response officials say they’re also struggling to meet staffing needs.
“There’s a limited workforce right now. Competition for those workers is fierce. Industries are offering higher wages, offering incentives, signing bonuses, etc. So, it’s very tough for our counties to compete with that, and that’s one of the challenges contributing to this issue,”
To keep people out of danger and connected with the first responders they need.
“I just marvel at the people that when all around you is losing it these people can keep you calm,” said Cambria County Commissioner William (BJ) Smith.