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Often overlooked, dispatchers honored with luncheon

April 25, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

When a house fire is extinguished or an ailing patient is transported to a hospital, it's easy to thank those putting out the flames or driving the ambulance.

All too often, however, the unseen members of the public safety and law enforcement community go unrecognized and unappreciated.

Dispatchers from city, county, state and federal agencies in the Imperial Valley, as well as dispatchers for emergency services in Mexicali, were honored at the third annual dispatcher appreciation luncheon Tuesday at the El Centro Police Athletic League's building.

"Too often these professionals perform duties without recognition from those who benefit," said Sandra Lopez, the California Highway Patrol El Centro area communications supervisor and one of the organizers of the luncheon.

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors passed and adopted a resolution April 3 designating April 8-14 as National Telecommunications Week.

The resolution, read to the luncheon audience by El Centro Mayor Cheryl Walker, indicates the board's recognition of emergency communications operator's "achievements and professionalism."

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During the luncheon, dispatchers from agencies across the Imperial Valley and Mexicali were presented with certificates of recognition.

When asked why dispatchers are often overlooked, Lopez replied, "Because they're not the ones out on the scene. They work behind the scenes."

Just because they aren't working out in the field doesn't make their contributions any less significant.

Dispatchers work under extremely stressful conditions, Lopez said.

Taking "multi-tasking" to new levels, dispatchers listen to the police scanner, take phone calls from the public, refer calls to other agencies and provide information to officers, paramedics or firefighters, among other responsibilities.

"Many times they do extraordinary feats behind the telephone or radio," Lopez said.

For emergency situations to conclude successfully, agencies and the public must depend on the professionalism and knowledge of dispatchers, Lopez said.

Though this annual event is only one day of the year, dispatchers such as Ruben Martel think it shows appreciation for the work they do year-round.

"I think it's kind of a morale booster," said Martel, a dispatcher for El Centro police and fire departments.

"It's a pat on our backs," he said.

Said Lopez: "This is a very significant event for us in the law enforcement community."

"We appreciate the great job they do for us and the community," Lopez said.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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