Across the U.S., calling 911 is often the first way people seek help during a personal crisis or community-wide disaster. Local and county emergency communications centers—including Indiana University Police Department’s dispatch centers—receive these calls 24/7, providing life-saving assistance and serving as a critical connection between the public and other first responders.
During the week of April 11–17, 2021, the Indiana University Police Department is celebrating National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. Sponsored by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International, this week honors the thousands of people who respond to emergency calls, dispatch emergency professionals and equipment, and render life-saving assistance around the clock.
IUPD’s dispatch centers in Bloomington and Indianapolis serve all of IU’s campuses, as well as the Stone Family Medical Center in Evansville. With 20 employees between the two centers, IUPD dispatch provides a critical service for our campuses and surrounding communities. They answered over 54,000 calls (both 911 and non-emergency) in 2020 and over 71,000 such calls in 2019.
In addition to fielding calls, dispatch staff also enter data into the computer-aided dispatch system, including both dispatched and officer-initiated calls for service and building and security checks. Dispatch staff made 93,000 entries in 2020, and over 79,000 entries in 2019.
“This week, we shine the spotlight on some of our indispensable public safety team members,” said Brad Seifers, deputy superintendent of IUPD. “When you pick up the phone and call for help, you talk to a dispatcher first. They are well-trained, poised, and professional, and they are the vital link between the community and a public safety response. Their skills and talents make our community safer.”
Dispatchers play a key role during IU football and basketball games, as well as during Indy Eleven professional soccer games in Indianapolis. They also get involved with the IU community through events such as Public Safety Day and New Student Orientation, and by presenting to and collaborating with IU units such as Residential Programs and Services, Housing and Residence Life, and Recreational Sports.
While they primarily serve the IU community, they also collaborate weekly with 10 public safety answering points across the state of Indiana to share information and ensure the smooth transfer of calls. These relationships are critical, as public safety answering points deploy fire trucks and ambulances when needed.
“Dispatchers are those first responders that you hardly see but know their voices,” said Tricia Edwards, dispatch manager at IUPD. “This week in particular we honor all 911 dispatchers across the nation and thank them for the important work they do.”