GUILFORD COUNTY, NC -- Whenever there's an emergency or you need help, officers, firefighters and EMS workers are ready.
They're the first ones on the scene of a fire or a shooting or a medical emergency.
But before they can get to you, it all starts with a phone call to 911.
The people on the other end of the phone, the 911 dispatchers, are saving lives each and every day.
The week of April 10-15 marks National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week – a week to honor and celebrate the work of 911 dispatchers.
Dispatchers work long days with few breaks to be ready when someone calls needing help.
But their job is more than just answering phones -- dispatchers are our lifelines in crisis situations.
Gregory Cobb has worked at Guilford Metro 911 Center for 14 years, but he says the job still stresses him out.
“You can get just as amped up or just as nervous as everybody else because you're dealing with peoples' lives,” said Cobb. “It just happens so quick.”
Cobb won the award for the Guilford Metro 911 Dispatcher of the Year for his ability to stay calm under the pressure of the job!
But he says sometimes it’s hard to just be himself.
“One thing about this job is you have to try your best to not take it home with you,” said Cobb. “But sometimes you just can't help it depending on the type of calls you deal with each day.”
As part of National Telecommunicators Week, the Guilford Metro 911 Center has been renamed to “Hero Headquarters.”
Several community groups made super-hero themed posters to show appreciation for Cobb and all the other 911 dispatchers.
“No one person can do this by them self,” said Cobb. “When you have a team and people that are there behind you like they are here, it makes it easier to get things done.”
It’s certainly not an easy job.
Christina Evans, a supervisor at Guilford Metro 911, says it takes 8-12 months of training on all kinds of emergency calls to become a 911 dispatcher.
“We would never allow accidents to happen that could be preventable through training,” said Evans. “So nobody is signed off until we are absolutely sure that you're fully capable of handling this type of work.”
It’s a challenging job, but for Cobb, it’s a labor of love.
“We've become a family around here and that's just how it's always been,” said Cobb. “I love that nature about the job, being able to help somebody and then when you can do it with people that you care about, people that you love being around, it makes it easier.”
911 centers around the country are having a hard time staying fully staffed.
At Guilford Metro 911, Evans says the yearly turnover rate is between 25-50%.
New dispatchers start out making just $30,000 a year.
Evans says dispatchers at Guilford Metro field0 more than 700,000 emergency calls every year.
Dispatchers in Guilford County have saved more than 115 lives by giving CPR instructions over the phone in the last three years.
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