If you need help in an emergency in Roswell or anywhere else in Chaves County, chances are you will be talking to one of the dispatchers at the Pecos Valley Regional Communications Center. The telecommunicators of PVRCC answer all 911 calls made in Chaves County and dispatch emergency fire, police and medical services for the City of Roswell, Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, and all police, fire and EMS agencies within the county. In all, PVRCC does the dispatching for 20 agencies consisting of 12 fire departments, five law enforcement agencies and three EMS services.
The center operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While on duty, dispatchers and supervisors are responsible for the intake of all 911 calls, as well as administrative calls for the departments they serve. They also serve as the radio operators for all emergency-service responders, providing police, fire and medical personnel with pertinent information concerning calls for service and are responsible for the safety of the responders relative to scene information, as well as ensuring law enforcement officers are provided with updates about any potential threats associated with a scene or individuals with whom they come in contact.
“Having the responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of our community and our responders is a tremendous strain,” says PVRCC Director Teri Best. “In addition to the technical skills needed in being a 911 operator and dispatcher, a certain strength of character and resilience is necessary. Most of the telephone calls we handle are people under duress. They are often scared, sometimes angry, and can be verbally abusive.
“We also work under the knowledge that with every call we dispatch, we are sending our responders into potential danger.
“It takes a special kind of person to be able to work under that type of stress. We are selective in those that join our team.”
Dispatcher Darla Shannon checks information on multiple screens as she works a shift at Pecos Valley Regional Communications Center.
The dispatch center’s 21-person staff has 13 emergency dispatchers, four shift supervisors and four administrators. Best calls the front-line dispatchers, who deal directly with the citizens calling in an emergency, the “heart” of the facility. They work under the management of the shift supervisors, who are responsible for the smooth operation of the center during their shifts. Each supervisor is a liaison with the agencies for which the center is dispatching, and each supervisor also handles any issues that may arise during a shift.
The administrative staff consists of a Training Coordinator, Quality Coordinator, Operations Coordinator, and Director.
The Training Coordinator is responsible for developing, implementing and updating all in-house training for the entire staff. The Training Coordinator also ensures all certified personnel obtain the continuing education needed to retain their certifications and deliver service in line with the latest industry standards.
The Quality Coordinator is responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining the quality-assurance and quality-improvement program for the center’s performance. This includes call review, documentation, and support to the Training Coordinator and supervisors to enable them to constantly improve the performance of the teams. The Quality Coordinator also has oversight of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) operations used at the dispatch center, is the primary source of records, and is the system administrator for the Emergency 911 Call System.
The Operations Coordinator is responsible for the equipment, systems and services of the center, a job that includes coordinating maintenance and repairs, purchasing, and personnel and staffing. The Operations Coordinator is the primary contact at dispatch for other agencies and coordinates the development and implementation of dispatch’s policies and procedures based on the needs of each agency.
The Director is the department head and administrator for the dispatch center. The primary role of the director is to support PVRCC team members in their roles and responsibilities. The Director oversees the budget; secures funding for equipment, services and products; creates and distributes reports; and coordinates communication with city and county administrators and officials.
Shift Supervisor Raelynn Villarreal enters information at Pecos Valley Regional Communications Center.
The dispatchers and other staff members of Pecos Valley Regional Communications Center are members of the public safety family,” says Director Best. “We interact with agency administration, EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, police officers and deputies all day every day. We are the first first-responders of the City of Roswell and Chaves County. In addition to that, we are responsible for the safety of our field responders. This creates a strong bond with our community and the responders we serve.”
The number of 911 calls handled by PVRCC dispatchers in 2020 totaled 49,025. That’s slightly more than 134 each day.
Many people assume a dispatcher knows the specific location from which a 911 call is being made. However, with most of these calls made from cellphones today, narrowing down the location of a caller is limited, usually only getting the location to a general area based on the cellphone signal. So, says Best, “The most important thing we need to know when you call 911 is where you are. Always give your location to the operator as clearly as you can.”
Best adds PVRCC has the benefit of the fact that “a good number of our communicators were raised in this area. Having historical knowledge of how the area has grown and changed over the years is a tremendous asset in the work that we do.”
The City of Roswell is the fiscal agent for PVRCC. All employees are city employees. Under a joint powers agreement, Chaves County shares the operating expenses of the consolidated dispatch center with the city. The center is housed in the Chaves County Administration Building in south Roswell.
The dispatch center continues to make improvements to better serve the community. An updated emergency 911 computer system was recently installed after the center’s electrical system was enhanced. The center is presently in the process of changing the floor design and replacing outdated furniture. The center will soon begin implementing structured call taking, which allows for a consistent method of information gathering. It assists dispatchers with asking the right questions in the right order for the situation at hand, even when under duress. It helps the dispatcher provide responders with accurate and concise information concerning call nature and situation with emphasis on safety. The structured process also gives the dispatchers instant access to instructions such as CPR, childbirth, sinking vehicle and many others so they can provide instant response assistance to callers and bystanders in life-threatening situations.
“The structured call-taking protocols chosen by Pecos Valley are backed by scientific research and clinical review, meeting or exceeding industry standards to ensure we provide our community with the most up-to-date and highest level of care possible,” says Best. “We continue to look for technology that will assist in the practical side of the job so that our focus can be on the more important relational side. We do all that we can to support one another emotionally to help keep us strong.”