The ins and outs of emergency dispatch


By Blythe Alspaugh - [email protected]



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SIDNEY — The unsung heroes of the Sidney Police Department lay in the dispatchers; something many officers consider the first life-line that people reach when trying to contact emergency services.

“Odds are, there are two people you’ll call when things go really wrong: the one family member or trusted friend that’s been there through everything and one of our 911 dispatchers,” Sidney Police Officer Rachel Croskrey said.

Sidney Dispatch assisted in handling and dispatching the 15,692 police calls the department handled in 2021. They also handled 4,448 calls for the Sidney Department of Fire and Emergency Services, in addition to even more behind the scenes.

“They coordinate officer and fire dispatches and check up on them to make sure they and the citizens are safe. Dispatchers are trained for all kinds of medical and police emergencies. They handle heart attacks, labor, fall victims, strokes, hostage situations, domestic violence situations, as well as many other calls,” Croskrey said.

According to Croskrey, a common reason for a citizen to make contact with dispatch is a 911 hang-up. In 2021, dispatch had 1,921 hang-ups where dispatch could not make contact with the caller. The reason for 911 hang-ups ranges from accidental “butt” dials, children playing on the phone, business numbers calling due to program malfunctions, to domestics where the victim is too afraid to speak, among other things.

Of those hang-ups, dispatch was able to trace 413 and send an officer to check on the caller.

“If the phone that calls 911 is in service, dispatch receives the number. If it is not, it comes in as a 911 number and cannot be called back,” Croskrey said.

About 95% of the time a call can be traced by GPS to where the phone was when the call was made. If it’s within the city, dispatch sends an officer to check. If it’s not, dispatch alerts the jurisdiction that the call originated from.

Once 911 is called and disconnected, dispatch tries to call the number back. Some people pick up and advise the call was accidental.

“If there is a problem, sometimes callers say ‘just get here’ and hang up,” Croskrey said.

According to Croksrey, popular TV shows have made people assume that dispatch knows exactly who is calling and where from.

“While dispatchers will send personnel if they can track the call, it’s important for the safety of the caller and the rest of the city to know what the problem is,” Croskrey said.

If unknown, dispatch will send two police officers and medics and those units may respond lights and sirens. Not only is this a traffic hazard for other drivers, there are many tactical reasons that officers and medics like to know from the caller what type of situation is occurring. For instance, lights and sirens can sometimes add an element of danger to the situation by placing pressure on the suspect if it involves hostages, domestic violence, etc.

“If there’s a medical issue it is helpful for medics to know what is going on, how many people need medical assistance and what kind, so they make sure they have the needed resources and personnel,” Croskrey said.

If the person calling 911 does not pick up when dispatch calls back, dispatch sends an officer if there is a last known GPS location to send them to. Often when this occurs, an officer is unable to make contact with the caller.

According to Croskrey, Sidney generally has the capacity for two 911 calls at the same time. If the two 911 lines are being used, then any other 911 calls are transferred to the Sheriff’s department.

“The limited capacity for the emergency line is why it’s important to stay off 911 unless someone is actively getting hurt or about to get hurt,” Croskrey said.

If Sidney residents want to program the police department’s non-emergency number for dispatch into their phones, it is 937-498-2351. The non-emergency number can be used for medical and police non-emergencies, such as fall victims with no injuries, loose canines, civil issues, accidents with no injuries, and more. This number can also be called to advise of an accidental 911 dial.

“The Sidney Police Department greatly appreciates dispatcher’s work to keep our officers and community safe. Telecommunications Week begins April 10 and the city of Sidney likes to honor our dispatchers for the work they do during City Council,” Croskrey said.

If anyone is interested in employment as a dispatcher, Sidney is currently hiring. The application is available on the City of Sidney’s website at https://www.sidneyoh.com/Jobs.aspx.

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By Blythe Alspaugh

[email protected]

The Sidney Daily News conducts a periodic interview to update readers with news from the Sidney Police Department, 234 W. Court St., Sidney.

The Sidney Daily News conducts a periodic interview to update readers with news from the Sidney Police Department, 234 W. Court St., Sidney.