By Elira Benavari – Orlando Sentinel Correspondent
TAVARES — When an emergency occurs, Lake residents can dial 911 and immediately receive a response from a trained individual who will bring help as soon as possible.
This week, more than 120 professional public-safety communicators in Lake received a pat on the back for the difficult job they do as part of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.
Each year, Lake dispatchers handle more than 100,000 calls for assistance. So far this year, calls are up 10 percent, said Kim Stephens, Lake Emergency Medical Services chief communications officer. Often dispatchers — dubbed “first, first responders” — are called on not only to gather information to appropriately handle precious life-threatening moments but also are trained to help a caller deliver a baby, control bleeding, assist in giving CPR instructions and to aid callers in other life-saving situations before emergency medical staff or police and fire personnel arrive at the scene.
“They are trained to do what they can to activate assistance and they do whatever they can to save time for anyone who calls,” Stephens said.
She said the job is a lot harder than it looks.
“The dispatchers also handle about twice as many calls to transport patients from one hospital to another, coordinate with helicopter transports, and refer calls to the Red Cross or other agencies,” she said. “There are many rewarding experiences along the way for them, but day-to-day when the phone rings, they do not know what will happen next.”