FAIRBANKS, Alaska - As part of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (NPSTW), the City of Fairbanks is happy to recognize our emergency dispatchers at the Fairbanks Emergency Communication Center (FECC) for the amazing job that they do! NPSTW honors the thousands of men and women who respond to emergency calls, dispatch emergency professionals and equipment, and render life-saving assistance to the citizens of the United States. FECC public safety dispatchers answer over 2000 emergency 911 calls a month and serve as a vital link between the Fairbanks community and emergency services.
In Fairbanks Julie Ritchie has worked as a dispatcher for 27 years next month. She has had years of experience on the job and knows how this job is a critical to the how police, fire and ambulance services help in an emergency.
"If they called 911, the first thing we would ask is what city they are from, or where they need that emergency help at," said Ritchie.
In Fairbanks, dispatchers take calls across the North Star Borough.
Stretching their services from Healy to Tok, and across the Denali Highway. Receiving calls from all roadsides and houses in between.
"We need to confirm that first. Then we are going to ask them if they need police, fire assistance or medical assistance," Richie said.
FECC dispatches for over 20 agencies in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Denali Borough, and the Delta Community. This includes 2 police agencies, 10 fire and EMS agencies, 5 fire-only agencies, and 3 EMS-only agencies. While FECC is currently understaffed (4 vacant positions out of 17), citizens can rest assured that the dedicated staff is there to answer their calls and provide help during a crisis.
Wenonah Lefthand is a Dispatch Supervisor at FECC.
"It Can be really busy in there at times," said Lefthand
911 Dispatchers have the extremely demanding job of dealing with one crisis after another. Whether it's helping to deliver a baby or giving instructions to someone in danger, our Fairbanks Dispatchers are always there to help! FECC greatly appreciates all the support they have gotten this week for National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.
Although the job can be fast paced, she says it is also very rewarding.
"I guess getting to be a part of that, you know, vital link between them needing help and them getting the help and being able to see the affect right away,” she said.
Lefthand says she is reminded every day that the calls she takes effect real people in real time.
"We are not an automated system we're somebody who's doing this job because we care about our community. We care about the people there and we want to help them, and we would just ask that people remember that they are just talking to a person, too,” Lefthand said.
FECC public safety dispatchers answer over 2000 emergency 911 calls a month and serve as a vital link between the Fairbanks community and emergency services. FECC dispatches for over 20 agencies in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Denali Borough, and the Delta Community. This includes 2 police agencies, 10 fire and EMS agencies, 5 fire-only agencies, and 3 EMS-only agencies.
The Fairbanks Emergency Services Dispatch Center would like to encourage any resident who feels that one of our 911 dispatchers has made a difference in their life to show their support in honoring these amazing first responders! Residents can thank City dispatchers directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the end of April, there will 5 vacant dispatcher positions out of 18. Of the 13 remaining employees, 5 are still in training, which means that 8 dispatchers will be responsible for the staffing the center 24/7. Low staffing is a serious concern, but we hope that with the new contract in place we can attract more applicants. Dispatching is a very rewarding career for those interested in public safety. Previous dispatching experience is not required in order to become a dispatcher. When people apply they will take an assessment to make sure they have the basic skills required for the job and FECC provides new employees with an extensive paid training program.
Those interested in learning more about the job itself can contact FECC’s Administrative Assistant, Martha Jewkes, at 907-450-6515. More information can also be found on the City of Fairbanks website: https://www.fairbanksalaska.us/fecc