This is national public-safety telecommunications week, and the Iowa State Patrol’s highlighting the people who answer the phone when you call 9-1-1. Captain Todd Misel works with the dispatchers, and says they’re a lifeline to troopers alone out on the highway. He says in a way the dispatchers are “the first responders for the first responders,” since anytime someone calls for help the first person they’re in touch with is the communications specialist — a dispatcher. The commander says dispatchers have special training, even though they aren’t patrol officers. They not be law-enforcement personnel, but they have to meet certain requirements including a background check, since they’re handling confidential data including law-enforcement-sensitive information. Someone broken down on the side of the road might not look like an emergency to passersby, but Captain Misel says to the stranded motorist it may be a serious situation. The communications division breaks that down, and reports that 31-thousand-861 HelpLine calls, and 32-thousand-89 wireless 9-1-1 calls. The communications-center workers also collect information that goes into the state road reports you get on radio, internet and by calling the new 5-1-1 road-info number. They partner with the D-O-T to do that, and he says in 2003, there were 328-thousand-694 calls to 5-1-1. Misel says 46 trained communications specialists work in the six state patrol communications centers, based in Des Moines, Atlantic, Storm Lake, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, and Fairfield.
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