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Answering the call: Roanoke County looking for 911 dispatchers

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 6:25 PM EST
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ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ) - Roanoke County is looking for recruits to answer the call and serve as 911 dispatchers, and is now offering sign-on incentives totaling $3,000.

These first responders may not be seen, but they’re the first ones you hear when you need help in an emergency.

“We always hear kids saying they want to be a firefighter or police officer when they grow up and often times we are the forgotten link,” says Paige Chisom, the acting training coordinator for Roanoke County Emergency Communications.

Chisom says it takes a special person to perform in a high-stress environment. The job requires the skills of good multi-taskers and quick learners who can stay calm under pressure. The center has 11 positions empty and is always hiring.

“It’s kind of a revolving door, sad to say. It is something we’ve struggled with for years,” adds Chisom. “We need people to fill the seat but we need skilled people who can do a good job and provide the service we’re looking for, for Roanoke County citizens.”

The hiring process takes six weeks before new employees undergo training, learning how to use the phone system, and guided cards for emergency calls.

Current communications officers say 12-hour shifts go by fast, and they get good time off, only working half the month. More than the job specifics, the fulfillment they get from helping people in need is the reason they stay.

“I got to help a little girl, she was choking on some food, having an allergic reaction to shrimp. I was able to help her mom walk through that and to be able to get the shrimp out and rescue get there in time to help with the allergic reaction,” says Communications Training Officer Koty Thompson.

Recently, a dispatcher took a call from a man as his wife was going through childbirth on the side of the road.

“You’ve got the traffic going by as well as her screaming with contractions, obviously because she’s in active labor, and our dispatcher was able to help her through that process to be able to deliver a healthy baby,” explains Chisom. “It’s really rewarding for our dispatchers to be able to do that and know they truly helped somebody in a time of crisis.”

For more information about qualifications and to apply to be a 911 dispatcher for Roanoke County, click here.

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