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Letter to the Editor: Public safety telecommunicators unsung heroes

Each year, the second full week of April is dedicated to the men and women who serve as public safety telecommunicators.

This year, April 10-16 is designated as "National Public Safety Telecommunications Week." 

It was first conceived by Patricia Anderson of the Contra Costa County (Calif.) Sheriff's Office in 1981, and was observed only at that agency for three years. Members of the Virginia and North Carolina chapters of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) became involved in the mid-1980s. By the early 1990s, the national APCO organization convinced Congress of the need for a formal proclamation. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) introduced what became H.J. Res. 284 to create "National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week." According to Congressional procedure, it was introduced twice more in 1993 and 1994, and then became permanent, without the need for yearly introduction.

The official name of the week when originally introduced in Congress in 1991 was "National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week." In the intervening years, it has become known by several other names, including "National Public-Safety Telecommunications Week" and "International Public Safety Telecommunicator's Week."

The Congressional resolution also stated there were more than "500,000 telecommunications specialists," although other estimates put the number of dispatchers at just over 200,000. The Congressional figure may include support personnel and perhaps even those in the commercial sector of public safety communications.

Each time someone calls 911 because of a medical, police or fire incident, a dispatcher (also known as Public Safety Telecommunicator) answers the call before the paramedic, police officer or firemen arrive. They must listen carefully to panic-stricken people, provide life saving advice and directions, coordinate efforts of multiple departments if not multiple agencies and do it all within seconds.

These individuals seem to be truly our unsung heroes at many events that occur throughout our nation as well as our own city. We are fortunate to have excellent individuals employed here in West Fargo that handle emergencies on a daily basis.  We believe they deserve recognition and ask that the media help recognize them during their special week. 

By the Red River Regional Dispatch Center, Board of Authority

The Board of Authority for

the Red River Regional Dispatch Center consists of: Sheriff Paul Laney, Cass Co.; Chairman,

Sheriff Bill Bergquist, Clay Co. Minn.; Arland H. Rasmussen, West Fargo PD; Chief Bruce Hoover, Fargo Fire Dept.;

Chief Mike Cline, Glyndon, Minn.; Assistant Chief Jeff

Wallin, Moorhead Fire Dept.; Chief Keith Ternes, Fargo;

Director Dean Lampe , FM

Ambulance, Fargo; and Chief David Ebinger, Moorhead.