CUMBERLAND — As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues globally, the Allegany County Department of Emergency Services is taking time to honor the communication specialists of the county’s Joint Communications Center for National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. 

“The often overlooked emergency communication specialist is the first link in the chain of survival,” Emergency Services Director James Pyles said. “They are the first voice you hear when you dial 911, delivering pre-arrival emergency medical care, fire and police communications to units across the county.”

The Allegany County Joint Communications Center handled nearly 170,000 calls in 2019, Communications Chief Bryan Miller said. The center operates with a minimum of four dispatchers and one supervisor per shift.

“We average approximately 460 calls in a 24-hour period,” Miller said. “Our center is responsible for answering 12 911 lines, six law enforcement lines, four administration lines and monitoring 68 radios.”

In 2019, Allegany County processed nearly 41,000 emergency calls. The emergency communication specialists interviewed the callers, performed emergency medical dispatch protocol or emergency fire dispatch protocol to ensure the appropriate resources were dispatched. 

“With recent changes, our communication specialists are required to ask additional questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Miller said. “Working as a team, this does not delay patient care, fire or police response.”

Miller said that while one dispatcher is collecting information from the caller, a second specialist is monitoring the call and dispatching the appropriate resources.

After processing the call and taking pertinent call information, staff dispatches units from the 30 county fire and EMS departments, the Cumberland Police Department, Cumberland Fire Department and the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office, Miller said. 

All Allegany County communication specialists are cross-trained and certified through the International Academy of Emergency Police Dispatch, Fire and Emergency Medical Dispatch. Staff is also Maryland Emergency Medical Dispatch certified, maintain CPR certification and National Weather Storm Ready and Maryland CJIS certified.

The center also processes calls for county roads, county utilities, Cumberland Street Department, Cumberland Water Department, Maryland State Highways, Allegany County Department of Social Services, Adult/Child Protective Services, Maryland State Medical Examiner’s Office, C3I investigations and narcotics, Crime Solvers and Department of National Resources.

“Talking to crying children, attempting to provide comfort to a critically ill person until an EMS unit arrives, keeping a caller calm until police arrive is stressful,” Miller said. “Our staff come back on their next shift ready to help someone else in need, ready to make a difference in the life of someone else.”

Miller added that the job is thankless and ruthless at times, but his dedicated and professional staff remain calm under pressure and continue to do what they are trained to do. 

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