IN FOCUS: Honoring Utah’s 911 dispatchers

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – According to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, the state had 630 emergency dispatchers in 2016. By 2026, that number is projected to grow to 770, which is an increase of 22.2%. The second week in April is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, a time when we recognize Utah’s 911 dispatchers, who are the first to pick up the call for someone in need.

Emergency dispatchers often work long hours and holidays, deal with periodical shortages in staff, and are constantly speaking to callers on the worst day of their lives. But at the same time, these faceless heroes often provide strength, direction, and life-saving instructions for those on the other line. But their career comes with a lot of sacrifice and risks as well.

As the community pays tribute to these unsung heroes of public safety, it is crucial to understand the value each emergency dispatcher holds. In some cases, they are the connection between life and death. They are the messengers and information gatherers that set the foundation for a successful rescue mission.

To share their personal experiences on-the job, three local dispatchers joined ABC4’s Glen Mills for an IN FOCUS discussion. The first guest was Chelsea Gipson, Lead Dispatcher for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. The second guest was Joseph Faiola, Communications Center Manager for the Utah Department of Public Safety. The third guest was Dawn Shumway, Lead Dispatcher for Davis County.

In Part 1, the panel discussed what led them to becoming a 911 dispatcher, what kind of training or certification is required, and their favorite part about the job.

In Part 2, they talked about how they stay calm during stressful situations, how they deal with the mental and emotional toll of the job, and what resources exist for dispatchers.

In Part 3, they discussed what their favorite memories are on-the-job, Shumway’s “Zero Suicide” kits, the legislation re-introduced in Congress to classify dispatchers under the umbrella of public safety instead of the same category as receptionists, and what they want the public to know about their profession.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Gipson, Faiola, and Shumway, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

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