What to know about the 911 call-takers who might answer your call for help

Problem Solvers

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — The people who answer your 911 call will likely ask for the address of the emergency and for the caller’s phone number a couple of times at the start of the call, so it’s important to provide that information correctly and clearly, as quickly as possible.

“Knowing exactly where they are and being able to pinpoint them is the most crucial thing because if we can’t find them, we can’t help them,” said Lynelle Turner, one of ten recruits who is learning the ropes at the Jeffcom 911 training academy.

The recruits recently received training on mapping and geography in the Jefferson County area, so they will be able to locate 911 callers quickly, when they need help.

The current training academy is the 19th session at Jeffcom 911 since 2018.

Recruiters accepted 212 applications, but only 10 people were selected to attend the 15 weeks of training.

“It was really helpful to go through training and learn the 100 blocks and memorizing all the streets because they go in alphabetical order,” said Nancy Burckhalter, a former Verizon sales and customer service employee who is also training to become a call taker and dispatcher at Jeffcom 911.

“Super challenging and intimidating,” she said, “but it’s gone really well. It’s gone smooth.”

Caroline Davis, another trainee, said learning the digital mapping technology has been challenging even though she has experience with map coordinates as a former park ranger.

“It is digital. It’s a new system. It’s learning where the police departments are, the fire departments are and our routes. Our fire hydrants. Little things that make a big difference in the emergency dispatch world that weren’t necessarily applicable to the park ranger world,” she said.

Dispatchers are working alongside the call takers to send the appropriate emergency response teams to the caller’s location while the call taker gathers or provides additional, important information to the caller.

A caller might not know or hear all of the behind-the-scenes details, but the dispatchers and call takers are working to get help on the way as fast as they can, according to Mark Nava, an emergency communications specialist 3 and a training officer who is working with the new recruits at Jeffcom 911.

“Our job is to ask questions and gather information,” he said. “A lot of times, when people are experiencing an emergency or there’s been some sort of trauma, they don’t want to answer your questions, and so, one of the things that we teach is that, ‘you can say questions,’ but another way around that is to say, ‘Miss, I need you take a deep breath for me. I’m going to be right here with you. I want to try and get some more information while help is on the way. It’s not delaying the response,’” said Nava.

Vicki Haiges, a former home health care provider who is also a trainee, said she is looking forward to the days when the trainees can take real phone calls rather than just practice. She said it helps that all the recruits are a “tight-knit” group.

“We’re all a team, so that makes it really helpful,” she said.

The Problem Solvers will continue to check in with the recruits until they graduate at the end of June. Statistics show 10-20% of trainees drop out of the process.

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