Seated in the red is Team Leader Edmetris Moore with her staff of 5 dispatchers who all work a 12 hour shift. Moore has been with the 911 dispatch for 8 years. The other team members are Vic Wagnon, Nathinel Stykes, Ali McDowell, Caroline Butler, and John Copeland.
COVINGTON --Their job is intense, critical, requires compassion and is largely out of the view of the public eye.
"We always remember that the person who is calling us is probably having the worst day of their life," said Krista Hipps, who has worked as a dispatcher with Covington-Newton 911 Communications Center for eight years.
"Even if someone is locked out of their car, that's the worst day for them at that moment," said Ali McDowell, a three-year veteran of the Covington-Newton 911 Center.
The 18 dispatchers with 911 handle a wide variety of calls, including emergency calls from the public; requests for assistance; and calls from public safety agencies, including the fire department, police departments, sheriff's office, animal control and emergency medical services.
According to a recent report from Covington-Newton 911 Director Mike Smith, the Communications Center handled 112,712 calls for service in 2011, an increase of nearly 6 percent from the previous year.
Dispatchers work 12-hour shifts on a rotating schedule, but with little increase in staffing, many employees work overtime and every weekend.
Even with the increase in call volume and limited staff, the dispatchers take pride in their job.
"I love it; I love to stay busy and to multitask and that it is different every day," said Dara Penland, a dispatcher at Covington-Newton 911.
Operations Manager Trudy Henry said Covington-Newton 911 dispatchers undergo about five months of on-the-job training, and must continue with training throughout their career to maintain their certification.
"The first call you take on your own is scary -- really scary, but it's sink or swim," Penland said.
This week has been declared National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, which is an opportunity to honor those who provide 911 emergency assistance to the public.
"These are often the unsung heroes," said Henry. "We're kind of in the background and a lot of people don't know we are separate and not part of the police department or the fire department. This is our chance to show them our appreciation."
The Covington-Newton County Communications Center has planned a number of events to honor communications officers, including a cookout Monday afternoon where the Rookie of the Year, the Dispatcher of the Year and the Employee of the Year will be recognized.