CULLMAN, Ala. – Thanks to a $150,000 grant recently received through the Cullman County E-911 Board, the City of Cullman’s emergency dispatch center has undergone some much-needed upgrades. The City of Cullman now has a fourth dispatching console, and new communications equipment was installed that include the ability for #PublicSafetyTelecommunicators to tone fire departments. These upgrades enhance Cullman’s capabilities to be an effective backup center for other agencies.
“We are thankful to the E-911 Board for this grant,” said Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs. “Technology is constantly changing, so it is vital that our 911 system adapts in order to meet the needs of our changing world.”
The Cullman County E-911 Emergency Service System was created by the Cullman County Commission Sept. 18, 1987, 10 months after the people of Cullman County voted to establish an emergency communications system. Several years of preparation followed, which included road numbering, planning, equipment purchasing, installation and testing. The system became operational in 1991. But there have been a lot of changes since the first Cullman County 911 call occurred in June 1991, and today’s public safety telecommunicators face new challenges.
For example, today, over 90% of 911 calls for service are made using cell phones. Unlike landline calls, calls placed to 911 from cell phones do not automatically give telecommunicators the actual address a call is being placed from – and in an emergency, location is the most important piece of information and the first question telecommunicators ask. Without it, they do not know where to send help. Also, the City of Cullman has seen a steady increase in population and tourism which has resulted in an increase in emergency calls for service. With higher call volumes, the demand on resources has increased – not just for City of Cullman emergency services but for other local systems as well. The fourth dispatching console and new communications equipment will help the City of Cullman emergency dispatch center meet those increased demands. Other Cullman County dispatch centers have also applied for the grant and should receive their equipment in the following days or weeks.
“For 12 years, starting in 1994, I worked part-time for Cullman EMS, with the last five of those years spent in their dispatch center,” said Cullman Fire Rescue’s Division Chief Jeff Shelton who oversees the operations of the City of Cullman Emergency Dispatch center. “At that time, I was the only dispatcher on duty and was responsible for answering 911 calls, dispatching ambulances and toning 26 different fire departments. Since then, call volumes have greatly increased and one person can no longer do the job alone. That is a perfect example of the growth Cullman County has seen.”
The announcement of the grant and recent upgrades at the City of Cullman emergency dispatch center follows Mayor Woody Jacobs’ proclamation issued earlier this week proclaiming the week of April 11-17, 2021, #NationalPublicSafetyTelecommunicatorsWeek (#NPSTW). Each year, the second full week in April is dedicated to the men and women who understand that seconds save lives, and that time lost in the dispatching process cannot be made up by responders. These men and women know that their voice could very well be the last voice someone hears.
When speaking about NPSTW at the proclamation presentation, Mayor Jacobs stated, “Our emergency responders rely on [public safety telecommunicators] in order to do their jobs quickly and safely, and our citizens rely on them to send the help they need in times of distress.”
Cullman Fire Chief Brian Bradberry echoed the sentiments expressed by Mayor Jacobs, “In any emergency – whether it is for a fire service matter, police matter or EMS incident – the public safety telecommunicator is the first individual to be involved. These professionals are the first ones to start bringing order into the chaos of whatever may be happening. They fill many roles, from calming the citizens who are calling, to getting correct and vital information, to making sure the right agencies are going to the right places at the right times.”
Cullman Police Chief Kenny Culpepper added, “Being a public safety telecommunicator is a difficult job, and is often very stressful. We depend greatly on them and they do a wonderful job of covering us when we’re in the field!”
NPSTW is sponsored each year by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International in order to honor the thousands of men and women who respond to emergency calls, dispatch emergency professionals and equipment and render life-saving assistance to the world’s citizens.
“The emergency telecommunication profession is not easy and most don’t understand the complexity of what these men and women deal with each day,” added Jeff Shelton. “They are highly skilled in multi-tasking – operating multiple radio, phone and mapping systems, while obtaining pertinent information for police, fire and medical responders to help them respond as quickly and safely as possible. I thank all of our local public safety telecommunicators – City of Cullman, Cullman County, City of Hanceville and Cullman Emergency Medical Services – for their dedication, professionalism and service to our communities!”
“We have some of the most dedicated and professional telecommunicators in the nation,” said Fire Chief Bradberry. “However, they are rarely seen in the spotlight or out in the community. But without them, the rest of the emergency services could not function. We are very proud of the exceptional work they do for the City of Cullman and all the citizens, visitors and fellow emergency service agencies. So this week we salute them and the work they perform!”
To find out more about National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, visit npstw.org.
To learn more about the Cullman County E-911 system, visit cullman911.org.