Behind the scenes of 911 - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Behind the scenes of 911

MERCER COUNTY,  WV (WVVA) Before firefighters, police or EMS can respond, 911 dispatchers pick up the phone to answer the call.

"Basically we're the first responders,” says dayside supervisor Karen Shrader. “We've got to get the information, we've got to process it and get whoever needs to respond out. So basically we're here for them."

Shrader says each time she picks up the phone she never knows what the situation will be on the other side.

"We have to be patient,” says Shrader. “It's difficult when there's an emergency, but they have to be patient to give us the information."

If it rains or snows, no matter what, these employees have to come to work. But Shrader says the calls on snow days can be surprising.

"Groceries, you know in weather like this they'll call and say I don't have any bread or milk and they've known the storm was coming for 3 weeks," says Shrader.

But every call must be answered, and responding takes a lot of juggling.

"Not only are you answering phone calls, but you're dispatching police, fire, ambulances at the same time,” says telecommunicator Julie Lockhart. I don't think that people realize what the job encompasses."

Lockhart says at times dealing with distressed calls can be difficult.

"No matter what happened before, you have to stop thinking about it, and go onto the next issue, the next call, the next dispatch. So every time you get the next call you're kind of wiping the slate clean and getting ready for the next call," says Lockhart.

Even with the difficulties, Shrader says responding to 9-1-1 calls is fulfilling.

"If you could leave at the end of the day and feel like you've done a good job and that you've helped somebody it's worth it," says Shrader.

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