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It’s 911 dispatcher appreciation week, what our local behind-the-scene first responders want us to know

KVIA: David Avila

EL PASO, Texas - When we think of first responders, many of us think of police, firefighters, and paramedics. But what about those who work behind the scenes to ensure we are safe and remain calm in an emergency? Those are the 911 dispatchers - the first responders we don't see but rely on.

This year, the week of April 10-16 is dedicated to the emergency dispatchers. These first responders are behind the scenes and have an extremely important role - ensuring you get the proper resources you need in an emergency, whether it's a policeman, firefighter, paramedic, or all three.

Jonathan Killings, the Assistant Chief for the El Paso Fire Department, shared his thoughts on the week dedicated to the dispatchers:

"Telecommunicator week is a great week to take some time and recognize those voices that are behind the radios and behind the telephones. That aren't out there on the fronts lines, but are still part of our first responders group that are responsible for the safety of our neighborhoods."

But Adriana Guillen, who is a Public Safety Shift Manager, and oversees all the dispatcher operations on her shift here in El Paso, has a strong opinion about the week.

"911 is a whole department full of employees that work so much, 24-7 literally. And I think that one week is not enough; it's never enough to appreciate all the hours we spent in this building, all the hours that all our employees are away from their families, missing holidays, lacking sleep. So one week, it's an honor, it's greatly appreciated, but honestly, it should be every day. Every time you see an officer, every time you see a fire truck or ambulance, just the thought that there are so many people behind the scenes making everything just go as flawless as possible as far as responses go," she admitted.

We've also reported on the 911 Dispatchers in El Paso being understaffed- likely leading to longer shifts, less days off, and more stress on all of the current workers. That article can be found here.

Ultimately, Guillen and her fellow dispatchers would just like to be appreciated for their hard work and dedication- not just this week, but more often. The next time you meet one in the store or at a park or event, give them a simple smile and, "thank you!"

Katie Frazier

Katie Frazier is an ABC-7 meteorologist and reporter.

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