Pictured above, left to right, Chris Knight, 9-1-1 Coordinator Paula Whaley, Tia Hopkins, Shakela Wimbush, Rhonda Glover, Morgan Cross, Pam Helms, and Tonya Wilkerson; not pictured, Jasmine Busby.
Every year during the second week of April, the telecommunications personnel in the public safety community are honored. This week-long event, initially set up in 1981 by Patricia Anderson of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office in California, is a time to celebrate and thank those who dedicate their lives to serving the public. It is a week that is set aside so everyone can be made aware of their hard work and dedication.
National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (NPSTW) gives Americans an opportunity to thank 9-1-1 call takers, dispatchers, and all of the support personnel who work very hard every day to keep their communities safe. Public safety communications officers perform critical tasks behind the scenes to support law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel.
Seminole County E-911 officially began its operations on January 1, 2000 with only four personnel serving the community 24/7. Sheriff Heath Elliott serves as the director of Seminole County E-911. He now has a staff of eight full-time and one part-time communications officers. Not only do they provide 9-1-1 services, they also handle many of the administration duties for the Sheriff’s Office as well.
Under O.C.G.A. 35-8-23, effective July 1, 1995, any agency that provides emergency communication services must have their employees complete Basic Communications Officer Certification course. The 40-hour course is held at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth. Communications Personnel also receive certification in using the national Criminal Justice Information System. They are also required to complete ADA compliance training annually. Although, not mandated by law at this time, they obtain additional in-service training hours.
The 9-1-1 Centers across the United States answer an average of 600,000 calls daily with over 80% of those coming from cell phones. As of April 12, 2021, Seminole County has answered 1,688 calls to 9-1-1 and have handled 5,769 calls for service this year. The past year has been challenging for everyone. Seminole County E-911 personnel preserved and rose to the challenge.
Paula Whaley serves at the E-911 Coordinator and has been with Seminole County since 1994. She also serves as the southwest regional director for the Georgia Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association.
Pam Helms has been with Seminole County E-911 for nine years. Tonya Wilkerson came to Seminole County in 2019, after serving 20 years with Early County Sheriff’s Office /E911. Chris Knight has been with Seminole County a total of 14 years and Morgan Cross has been with us three years. Tia Hopkins and Shakela Wimbush are in their third year. Jasmine Busby started in January this year and is scheduled to attend the Basic Communications Certification class next month. Rhonda Glover moved to a part-time position in November.