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911 dispatcher: ‘We’re generally talking to people on the worst days of their lives’

PLAINFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — Meghan Monaco since 2002 has been one of the 36 dispatchers who answer 911 calls at the Hendricks County Communications Center.

“It’s rewarding, and it is frustrating and very stressful at times, but that is overshadowed by the great that we get to do every day,” Monaco said.

The Hendricks County center serves 216,000 people. Monaco said, “Our job is one of the most important jobs there is, and we are never seen. We’re just the voices behind the radio or on the phone and we get to help folks that will never know us or see us.”

The training program to be a dispatcher in Plainfield lasts anywhere from 12-18 months before the trainee can take calls alone, according to Monaco. Trainers make sure new dispatchers know how to handle worst-case scenario calls.

“So every call we take, it could potentially be that caller’s worst day. So, we have to be that calm voice through that chaos. While we’re processing the calls, you don’t really think about that. You’re worried more about helping that person and getting them the correct help and response that they need,” Monaco said.

Monaco said they are “that first link in the chain of life”.

“We’re generally talking to people on the worst days of their lives. They may not remember speaking to us, and that’s fine, as long as we can get them that help, as long as we can get them that help and be compassionate and caring, and get them through whatever is happening in their day. And, just trying to treat each caller as you would want your family to be treated if they were calling in or you were to call in,” Monaco said.

Stephanie Singh, the director of communications and marketing for Plainfield, said Sunday through April 17 will be is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. Singh said, every year during the second week of April, the telecommunications personnel in the public safety community are honored. Singh said the weeklong event, initially set up in 1981 by Patricia Anderson of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office in California, is a time to celebrate and thank those who dedicate their lives to serving the public. It is a week that should be set aside so everyone can be made aware of their hard work and dedication.

Singh shared a few tips to remember when reaching out to 911 dispatchers.

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