National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week shines spotlight on hard work of local dispatchers

LA CROSSE  (WKBT) — Emergencies of all kinds require efficient communication among first responders, and there are people behind the scenes who work together to get those crews on-scene.

This week is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, which spotlights our community members on the other end of the line when we call for help.

The work is non-stop for responders who can’t even see what’s going on.

“You know, it sounds cliché, but we’re helping people,” dispatcher Ruth Krueger said. “There’s some calls where yeah, you wish you knew what happened. But on the other hand, some days I’m glad I am not there to see what the first responders and our officers are seeing.”

Krueger takes 9-1-1 and other calls for up to 12 hours a day.

She’s been doing these important tasks for nearly 25 years.

“You never know what the day is going to bring,” Krueger said.

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Krueger, like her other colleagues, is not among those on scene.

“We are not in the public eye,” said David Steinberg, La Crosse County emergency services coordinator.

But their contribution is just as important.

“We’re the first, first responders,” Steinberg said

Which requires them to take hundreds of calls every day, tallying 36,000 calls every year, he said.

“We’re here 24/7,” Steinberg said. This is one of those jobs where the public expects perfection out of us. And we do our best.”

“There’s days where you can try your hardest to help somebody, and there isn’t just anything you can do,” Krueger said. “And that some days is hard to take.”

It’s a job with lots of stress, communication, and responsibility, but one where on most days, Krueger feels like she is making a difference.

“You can get them help,” Krueger said.

Steinberg says dispatchers respond to about 10,000 accidental 9-1-1 calls — or pocket dials — on a yearly basis.

But even then, he says dispatchers and police must respond to those calls to make sure nothing is wrong.

Regardless of whether your 9-1-1 call is accidental, Krueger encourages you stay on the line. This allows dispatchers to make sure everything is OK.

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