Celebrating The Heroes Behind The Headset
Gail Napier Celebrates Her 19th Year With Harrodsburg 911
This week, April 14-20, is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. It’s a time to recognize over 200,000 people across America who play critical roles in the delivery of public safety services.
Being one of the “heroes behind the headsets” can be a thankless job and Gail Napier, the communications supervisor for the Harrodsburg Police Department, said turnover is high.
“This job is not what people think,” Napier said. “It’s not sitting here and answering the phones. There are multiple situations that are happening here at one time.”
It takes eight people to run the HPD communications department, and right now, there are only four. On Tuesday morning, she was working alone.
In a normal year, the department handles approximately 53,000 calls. Most of them are officer initiated, for instance, when a patrolman calls in during a traffic stop. Most of the rest are medical calls.
“They are not all 911 calls,” Napier said. “Not all 911 calls come on 911.”
Next week, Napier will celebrate her 19th year with the Harrodsburg Police Department. If she has the time.
Napier was recruited by her friend, Ruth Ann Bryant.
“She gave me this job and I didn’t know if I was going to make it,” Napier recalled. “And yet, 19 years later, I’m still here.”
There have been a lot of changes over the years. She said she has seen a huge increase in drug activity. There have also been changes in technology.
“We can see where we’re sending people to,” Napier said.
Once, if a call was cut off, the only thing a dispatcher could do was to call the number back and hoped they got an answer. Now, dispatchers can locate callers using their cellphones.
“We can actually find people using GPS,” Napier said.
The growth in cell phones has also led to a decline in land lines, which hurts funding for the 911 system. They used to collect 80-cents per line per month. City and county officials are currently looking at other ways to pay for the system, but have made no official announcement yet.
Another big change is the amount of training required. The HPD requires dispatchers to spend six weeks at the state police academy. They must pass tests after six months and after a year.
Napier said her favorite part of the job is helping people.
“It’s cliche, but you find yourself in a position where you get to help people in a lot of different situations,” she said.
Find the rest of the story on page 1A of this week’s issue of the Harrodsburg Herald or click here to to subscribe.