How properly calling 911 helps telecommunicators save lives

Published: Apr. 16, 2019 at 7:23 PM EDT
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Their voices are the first we hear in times of emergency.

This week is national telecommunicators week, focusing on the people that stay behind the scenes but are there in any situation that requires help.

"We get a full load, we have a lot of calls," said Chris Hays at Kentucky State Police Post 13 in Hazard.

Hays is a voice many many hear when calling 911 from Knott, Breathitt and Letcher Counties. He hears hundreds of voices a week at his job, he along with the other dispatchers and telecommunicators are there whenever someone needs help.

Calls come in so frequently that even during our interview with Chris he had to take a break briefly to answer a call.

Being on your toes is a must for the job. Sometimes you may need to balance multiple 911 calls. Last year alone the 193 telecommunicators working for Kentucky State Police answered 493,186 calls. That is roughly 2,555 calls per person in 2018.

Sometimes answering our calls is not easy though. From time to time people will call in without knowing where they are. Officials can not help if someone does not say where they are.

"Because it's the most important piece of information. If we don't know where to send help then we're not gonna be able to get there in a timely manner," added Hays.

He says whenever someone calls from a cellphone, the call goes to the nearest cell tower. The nearest tower could be nowhere near the location the person who needs help is at.

Bottom line -- know where you are at. Hays says there have been instances where a few seconds could have been the difference between life and death. He recalls one time where if they would have been able to locate the family, a life could have been saved.

"Just as the ambulance rolls up, a dad takes his last breath, of the thousands of calls that I've taken 18-20 year careers that's a call that's gonna stick with you for quite a while," he said.

Hays added to never call 911 for things that are not emergencies.

"If it is a life and death emergency, then, by all means, call 9-1-1 immediately. But if you've got something like your outbuilding was burglarized three or four days ago, that's not really a life or death emergency," he said.

Doing simple things like that can help them better serve their community as the helpers you may never see, but always hear.