Near the heart of “Everybody’s Hometown” sits a regional 911 police/fire dispatch center, staffed by 30-plus women and men with nerves of steel and hearts of gold. They operate complex technology while counseling people in crisis and send the correct resources out to them.
These heroes hustle to get public safety responders to emergencies from Paulden to Prescott Valley.
Vivian Marcott, lead dispatch supervisor of the Prescott Regional Public Safety Communication Center, is a 25-year veteran of Greater Prescott’s emergency dispatch scene, since before local agencies pooled their resources to launch the center in 2005.
“I have absolutely loved every minute of my career in the 25 years it’s been,” she says, since she was a young mother looking for a full-time job that would let her be with her kids in the daytime.
Extensive training to function in such a complex position requires considerable investment on the personal and public levels, Marcott says: “There is so much involved in training somebody, we’re looking for somebody that’s committed to making that. It’s not just a job. It’s not something that you want to do interim for a year or two.”
The communications center serves the Prescott and Prescott Valley police departments, Prescott Fire Department, Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority, Yavapai-Prescott Tribal Police Department, Yavapai College Police Department, and the fire districts serving Groom Creek and Walker.
The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office maintains its own dispatch facility, Marcott says. “We’re connected with them on certain things and we can work really well with them. And we also have them as a backup, if we had to evacuate our building, we would go over to the Sheriff’s office. And they can come over here.”
ON THE JOB
The communications center answers more than 23,000 calls per month, of which fire or police personnel are dispatched to about 7,000.
Marcott says operators at the dispatch center fill two primary roles: call takers, who answer incoming calls, prioritize them and send them to the correct agency, and dispatchers for police and fire departments, relaying information to personnel in the field and maintaining contact to relay updates back and monitor their status.
Robb Martin, communications manager for the center and a former Prescott police officer, says the job is extremely rewarding but its stress can take a toll, something he’s always on the watch for.
“It’s very important that we take care of each other, too. We try to monitor that as much as possible and try to make sure that everyone’s taking care of themselves first, because mental health and their personal health is very important, first before the job. Because if they’re not healthy and ready to work, then that can cause problems down the line,” he say.
Marcott and Martin say recognition of what they do can be overshadowed by that given to the front-line workers seen by the public, but that appears to be shifting.
Marcott says, “There was a group of us that joined Coffee with a Cop out at Jen’s Café where we arrived there with officers. And when we do present ourselves, when people see our faces, they really are interested in having a conversation with us or just looking at us saying, ‘Wow, this is the first person I might be talking to if I had any emergency’.”