You may remember hearing about the St. Peters man who was trapped in his truck during the flooding this summer. He credited, among other first responders, St. Charles County Emergency Dispatcher Michael Buckmore for helping save his life. Michael stayed on the phone with the man for 45 minutes until paramedics were able to reach him. “It’s all part of the job,” Michael told a reporter who covered the two meeting in person.
Last month, St. Charles County Emergency Communications Dispatcher-in-Training Natalie Wagster received a call from a husband whose wife was in active labor. He told Natalie they had waited too long and couldn’t make it to the hospital in time. Natalie ensured an ambulance was dispatched and stayed on the phone with them, giving the husband instructions on how to make his wife feel more comfortable and telling him what to do to prepare for childbirth. Paramedics arrived and the family welcomed a baby girl – their fourth child – at home at 2:01 a.m., just seven minutes after the initial call.
You may have heard about the St. Charles County Criminal Interdiction Task Force, a countywide initiative formed in early 2021 to address the uptick in auto break-ins and thefts. Dispatchers play a key role with the task force, as all communication involving these operations comes through one channel. Dispatchers relay information about criminal activity, pursuit of these criminals, and make certain police departments across the county are aware of activities during the operation. They are instrumental in assisting police in catching these thieves.
It takes a special person to be a dispatcher. They truly are the first responders, before police, fire, and ambulance. They remain calm in the most stressful of situations.
As St. Charles County taxpayers, you and I are invested in this service through a voter-approved Dispatch and Alarm tax. I think it’s important for you to know that the County provides exceptional services and results.
Emergency Communications Director Jeff Smith shared his department’s most recent data with me and it’s impressive. In September, dispatchers answered 5,755 911 calls and dispatched 5,305 police-related incidents and 5,373 fire and EMS-related incidents. That’s roughly 191 911-calls per day per day, and roughly 355 separate incidents being dispatched. 911 calls were answered, on average, within 3.3 seconds and 99.1 percent were answered within 10 seconds or less. National Emergency Number Association (NENA) standard is that all calls should be answered within 15 seconds 90 percent of the time.
From January through September of this year, dispatchers answered 51,793 911 calls and dispatched 51,807 police-related incidents and 48,211 fire and EMS-related incidents.
Like many employers across the country, St. Charles County is having difficulty filling positions in several areas. Emergency Communications is one of them. At full capacity, Emergency Communications would have 44 dispatchers. The department currently has 28. Those dispatchers work long hours, helping people who are in need, saving lives and helping deliver babies. I, for one, am beyond grateful for these selfless, caring individuals.
Perhaps being a dispatcher is a great fit for you or someone you know. Give Emergency Communications a call, they’d be more than happy to talk with you about what it takes to become one. You may have a calling to help others in this way.
Michael says he became a dispatcher so he could make a difference in the lives of others, and I suspect the same is true for Natalie and all our dispatchers. They certainly are doing that every day as they provide this critical service to the residents and visitors in St. Charles County.