Apr 14, 2023 | By: Charlie Yaeger

Crow Wing Co. Recognizing 911 Dispatchers During Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

The second week of April is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (NPSTW). It’s an opportunity to recognize 911 dispatchers, also known as telecommunicators, for the work they do.

“Our 911 operators are always heard but never seen,” said Crow Wing County Sheriff Eric Klang via text message. “They are the calm voice in the world of chaos. We often don’t get a chance to publicly thank them but this week we recognize and thank them for their great work. We love our tele-communicators!”

Two of those telecommunicators for Crow Wing County are Jessica Turner and Karri Turcotte. Both have 20 years of experience working in that job. Turner is the 911 Operations Lieutenant and Turcotte is the Day Shift Supervisor. The shifts run 12 hours long and can be stressful, and Turner recalls the first time she answered a call with a death involved.

“It was a tragedy,” she said. “I can still…hear the sorrow in the man’s voice, and it will never go away, 20 years later.”

Turcotte admits she learned of deaths in her family while answering 911 calls.

“The things you hear on the line, it can be absolutely horrendous, and it does affect you, it gets to you.” She likened it to watching a movie with your eyes closed, making up the pictures in your head, but without the closure of the ending.

Currently, the federal government does not recognize telecommunicators as first responders, despite them being the first to hear about any emergency. They are grouped in the public safety discipline, which means they don’t receive the same mental health benefits as first responders. In Minnesota, there is currently legislation in the works to reclassify telecommunicators as first responders.

Until then, Turner and Turcotte both say they are appreciative of the recognition the week brings and the support they feel from the many people they work with and serve in the community.

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