Go inside a 911 call center during Public Safety Telecommunicato - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Go inside a 911 call center during Public Safety Telecommunicators Week


Eau Claire (WQOW) - This week we recognize public safety telecommunicators, the men and women who are often the first to hear about disaster or crime in our communities.

The dial tone of a phone can be the difference between life and death.

Mike Hoepner, a telecommunicator for the Eau Claire Emergency Center, said, "When they make that call, it might be the only time they call us on 911. It is going to be the most important phone call that they make."

911 can be contacted from almost every device, like a landline or cell phone. But dispatchers say locating where you are calling from can be a challenge.

Greg Wallace, the director of the Eau Claire Emergency Center, said, "Cell phones are our main source of gathering information now. They've surpassed the landline phones. And cell phones are problematic at times in that they don't always give us an accurate location, and sometimes, no location at all."

Even unregistered, non-functioning cell phones that have power can still dial 911. Wallace said, "Because the 911 misdials, that creates a lot of work for the telecommunicators for when they're trying to find out if this is a need to respond or if this is just an accidental dial, so stay on the phone."

Dispatchers are the link between the caller and law enforcement officials and at times, dispatchers say the job can be taxing. Hoepner said, "It can get chaotic in here."

And at times, dispatchers say the job can be taxing. "It's really unpredictable," Hoepner said. "It takes a different breed to do this. It really does. It has to be something that you have to be able to calmly work your way through no matter what that call is."

In the very near future 911 centers will be expected to take calls for help via text messages, videos, and even photos.

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