At Issue: Behind the scenes at a police dispatch center - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

At Issue: Behind the scenes at a police dispatch center

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If you dial 9-1-1, your call will be picked up in a dispatch center like the one right here in the Shelburne Police Department. Their phones are quiet right now, but coordinating for 33 different agencies can be stressful.

"It is very difficult," says Tricia Vincent.

Vincent has been dispatching for 14 years and says it's hard to not get caught up in the emergency at hand.

"You have to be able to take yourself away from the situation and know you're not in it," she says.

She says people often think that because she's staying on the line with them, help isn't coming. And that's when she tells them it's already on the way.

"When they call, they don't want to hear someone that's not confident because they need help, so they want you to control the situation, it's your job to control the situation at that moment," she says.

Vincent admits some people abuse it and call for things that aren't emergencies, like snow on the roads or even a mouse in their house.

"The way we answer 9-1-1 throughout the state is 'Vermont 9-1-1, where's your emergency?' and their first thing will be 'well I don't have an emergency, but --' and you're like 'oh boy, what's going to come out of their mouths now,'" she says.

And they are also a vital resource for the first responders. Dispatchers are their point of contact, coordinating resources.

"We are also the police officers', the firefighters', the EMTs' lifeline back. When they need something, they're talking to us on the radio," she says. "It's our job to get them the equipment that they need."

For the officers, having a good dispatch team at their backs means understanding the situation before they even get there.

"Most people don't realize that with an officer and probably on rescue there's a lot of anxiety on calls," says Shelburne Police Chief Jim Warden, "and the more you know there will be less anxiety before you get there."

Vincent says she warns new dispatchers that training is going to feel like taking a college course. They have resources on their computers and in manuals on their desks, but everything has to be done fast.

"You have four calls going on and you have 10 things to do and you are expected to do them within seconds," she says.

She admits it can be hard not knowing how the calls she takes end up. Sometimes they find out, but often, they don't. She says it's not a job they do for thanks, though they appreciate the recognition.

"We do this because we know we're getting people help. And that's my job, and as long as I know that they got help, I can go home happy," she says.

But she said that they do get thanks from people, sometimes on the phone at the end of the call or sometimes even treats dropped off at the station.

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