NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WZMQ) -This week is national public safety telecommunicators week. The Michigan state police are celebrating and shining a spotlight on the individuals who connect those in need to emergency services.
911 operators correspond with police, fire, and emergency medical services, as the voice over the phone that we don’t usually get to see. Hannah Bedford became an operator after working in the Marquette prison. She says she wanted to get out of the prision, but still have a way to continue helping others.
“Most people don’t even think about 911 until they have to use it, which is usually the worst day of their lives.” Bedford said, “Working in the prison was tough, not that this is a cake walk but I like helping and reassuring people”
In Michigan, public safety telecommunicators are classified as secretaries in their job descriptions. Operator Jason Westman says they’ve been working with legislators in Lansing to redefine what the dispatchers do so that they can classify them in a higher rank
“As dispatchers here, we are the first first responders,” Westman says, “So we give CPR instructions on a daily basis, my coworker gave them earlier this morning. We’re not secretaries, and we do so much more than simply answer a phone call.”
Westman said it can be hard talking with people in distress without knowing the outcome, but operator Chloe Peterson says it’s important to her that she gets to be there to talk people through those moments, even when they don’t get to follow up with them.”
“I’m really passionate about helping my community,” Peterson says “being a friendly voice to someone who is going through a really hard time and just my urge to help the community and be someone that’s there for them.”
So the next time you have to make a 911 call, know the person on the other end is there to support you every step of the way.