|This is the fifth of a series of stories about the Sheriff’s Citizens Academy at the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office. The academy is for citizens interested in learning more about the sheriff’s office. The academy is free and lasts 16 weeks. For more information, contact Deputy Greg Dotson at 904-3033.
More than 2,000 calls are answered each day by telecommunicators at the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office.
Some callers need help for dire emergencies while others need information, said telecommunicator Kim Rydel. And some are downright funny.
“A man actually called and asked the number for 911,” Rydel said with a laugh.
Rydel described the duties of telecommunicators to students enrolled in the Sheriff’s Citizens’ Academy.
Twenty-five dispatchers work in the communications center 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They answer and dispatch calls to deputies and the Rutherford County Fire and Rescue Department and switch calls for an ambulance to Rutherford County Emergency Medical Services. The training program lasts 26 weeks.
“As soon as we get a call, somebody’s on the way” to emergencies, Rydel said.
The telecommunicator will ask the caller questions to gather information and to ensure officer safety while another telecommunicator will direct a deputy to respond.
If someone calls 911 and hangs up, the telecommunicator will call back and a deputy will be sent to determine if an emergency exists.
“It could be someone held at gunpoint and told to tell us everything is OK,” Rydel explained.
When someone calls using a cell phone, the 911 system equipped with a global positioning station allows telecommunicators to “pinpoint within 100 yards where you are,” Rydel said.
Telecommunicators refer serious and fatal traffic crashes to the Tennessee Highway Patrol and animal complaints to the Pet Adoption and Welfare Services.
Besides answering and dispatching calls, telecommunicators must log all calls, enter stolen property, conduct background checks, keep a record of burn permits required between Oct. 15 and May 15, maintain a list of owners when livestock gets loose, update the street data base, conduct background checks and enter bond conditions on domestic assault calls.
Telecommunicators belong to a tactical dispatch team to assist deputies in dangerous situations. For example, they will gather information about the number of people inside a house, weapons and other factors and relay the information to deputies.
“You have to be able to multi-task,” Rydel said.