You know what happens when you call 911. A dispatcher answers your call, determines the nature and location of your emergency, and notifies the appropriate agency - law enforcement, fire or rescue - to respond.
It’s a team effort to ensure the safety of Marlboro County’s citizens, and now, members of the team are collaborating in a new way through a ride-along program initiated by the county 911 office.
Through this program, 911 dispatchers ride along with first responders to see first-hand what happens after that initial contact on the radio. It’s a chance for the parties involved to get to know one another as well.
“It’s a benefit to the dispatchers and the other agencies to see each other, put faces with the voices,” said 911 Director Steve Akers.
The Marlboro County Sheriff’s Office, Marlboro Rescue Squad and Bennettsville Fire Department are already participating in the program, which began the last week in June. Akers expects the McColl and Bennettsville police departments to come on board in August.
Each week, two dispatchers will ride with one of the participating agencies for three hours at a time. Akers said it will be “an ongoing evolution” with dispatchers gaining at least six hours of ride-along time each quarter.
“It allows people to get it from another view,” he said, adding that he has invited the other agencies to send personnel, particularly new hires, to spend time at the 911 office as well.
The ride-alongs are on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Dispatchers do not actively participate in any calls that occur, but simply observe.
Charmonique Breeden has been with the 911 office for a little over a year. On Tuesday of this week, she rode along with Sgt. Bob Hale of the Sheriff’s Office.
“I think it’s good to see it from another point of view,” said Breeden, “to see what’s actually going on when they go on these calls.”
Hale agreed. “It’s a very positive interaction,” he said. “It reinforces the fact that they (dispatchers) are our lifeline out here and not just a voice on the phone.”
There are 11 dispatchers in the 911 office, all of whom will participate in ride-alongs in this ongoing program.