VIDEO: Maui Dispatchers Honored for Service, Operating at 50% Staffing
Emergency Services Dispatchers on Maui were honored today with a proclamation issued by the County of Maui, declaring this week Public Safety Telecommunicators Week in the County of Maui. The Maui observance from April 9-15, 2017, coincides with the National Public Safety Telecommunications Week.
The proclamation honored dispatchers as being, “the first and most critical contact” citizens have when reporting an emergency.
“These folks are the unsung heroes,” said Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu during a morning proclamation, noting that Maui dispatchers go through over 10,000 emergency 9-1-1 calls per month–that’s in addition to administrative calls that also come through the dispatch center.
He said dispatchers deal with triaging the concerns of the community, saying, “It is our dispatchers who then walk them through, step-by-step to make sure that the right help can be dispatched out.”
The proclamation also recognized dispatchers for their contributions to the apprehension of criminals, suppression of fires, and rapid response to individuals needing emergency assistance.
Maui Police Department 9-1-1 Administrative Supervisor, Davlynn Racadio, who has been with the department for close to 30 years said, “Since I’ve been here, we have delivered several babies where people have called and don’t realize that they’re very close to giving birth.”
She said she the dispatch center has also assisted in the rescue of people who have been kidnapped, where they have called 9-1-1, and left the line open, so that police could track the suspect vehicle on their computer system. “We actually followed them across several districts… all the way to the airport where the victim was dropped off,” said Racadio who noted that the responsibles were later found having lunch at a fast food restaurant in Kahului.
Racadio said dispatchers get calls of every type but calls with children are among those that are much harder to handle. “A mother calling that their baby is not breathing is very difficult for some people.”
Dispatchers often have to handle multiple calls and situations, all while making sure the correct people are sent to respond. “They’re job is to paint pictures for the responders,” said Racadio. “So if it’s a really big case, or a large fire, it’s making sure that the information is relayed to the responders and they have a good grip on what to expect upon arriving.”
In addition to voice calls, the Maui Police Department launched its Text to 9-1-1 service six months ago on Thursday, October 13, 2016 as part of a statewide deployment. Racadio said the service opens avenues for the deaf and hearing impaired, and gives people an option who are in situations where an audible call is impossible or remote areas where there is sporadic cellular voice service.
“Of course, we would prefer to have an audio call, but text messaging makes it right for a lot of people,” said Racadio who said it has been used for domestic violence situations where the victim cannot speak because it will alert the responsible to where they are located. The service was launched after an ongoing 3-year effort between the County, State and Federal agencies and the private sector.
Chief Faaumu also recognized the challenges that the department has faced with manpower issues. Police say the Maui dispatch area is currently at 50% manpower, and is looking to double its staff by attempting to fill 19 vacancies.
Racadio said that while some Maui dispatchers work eight hours a day, most are working 12-16 hours because of the shortage. It’s a problem that dispatch departments across the US are facing, according to Maui Police.
The Maui Police Department will be recruiting new employees at a job fair in coordination with the Maui Department of Personnel Services on May 13, 2017.
“I would like to get them higher pay, although we are one of the state’s highest paid dispatchers,” said Racadio, noting that Maui dispatchers get paid more than other locations because the Central Dispatch here covers police, fire and medics. “They deserve much more than what we have,” said Racadio, who noted that the Chief also wants to initiate a retention program to encourage dispatchers to stay with the department.
The most senior dispatcher has been with the department about 22 years, with the newest employee currently in training, and set to start on May 1, 2017.
“This week is dedicated to these people who are the voice behind the radio. They are the heartbeat of our station. They are the ones that take the calls and support people in their lowest of hours, and they need to be recognized and appreciated for the job that they do,” said Racadio.