Communications Operators are a vital link between citizens needing urgent assistance and police, fire and medical personnel responding to calls for service.
This week we recognize the exceptional work and dedication of our Communications members as we celebrate Telecommunicators’ Week.
Communicators are required to learn how to ask pertinent questions, give sound advice and process calls relating to a range of offences and incidents. This is often done under highly stressful and dynamic circumstances.
Toronto Police employs nearly 280 communications operators.
“It’s an amazing group of people who are dedicated to ensuring the community gets the service it needs,” said Communications Services Manager Kerry Murray-Bates. “They are an incredibly dedicated group of individuals who care about their jobs and the community.”
They work very hard to ensure that emergency services get to where they are needed when they are needed. She said they are working on a pilot to embed crisis workers in her department.
“These crisis workers will be able to connect people with mental health and addiction resources and support,” she noted. “We are always looking for ways to evolve and serve the public better.”
To expand their community outreach, education and engagement, the team is launching four new social media channels. The platforms on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok will keep the community informed about the important role our communicators play, while providing useful tips and information.
Each year communicators field nearly two million calls; many of the calls are made in error or could be directed to a more appropriate agency for follow up. This social media presence will also give the unit the opportunity to educate the public about when it is appropriate to call 9-1-1.
National Public Safety Telecommunicators’ Week is observed between April 11 and 17 this year.
“Every day, we should be recognizing our telecommunication operators,” said Deputy Chief Peter Yuen. “Once someone is seeking assistance from Toronto Police Service, they are the first contact. Their professionalism and compassion set the course for the call and our interaction with the public. They are the unsung heroes behind the scenes, working under tremendous pressure.”
Communications Operators perform two distinct functions.
Call takers respond to emergency and non-emergency calls coming in to the centre. They make the initial assessment on the type of response needed.
Dispatchers prioritize the calls for service to ensure officers respond to the most serious emergencies first. They are in constant communication with officers in the field.
“When I am on the phones, it can be anything from someone is parked in my parking spot to I just came home and found my husband of 50 years has hung himself,” said Communications Operator Wendy Drobiasko.
“It can go from my family member is not feeling well and I don’t know what to do about it to I have just had someone come into the bank and put a gun to my face. There is a face and person behind the voice. We always say we are the most important people that you will never meet in your life and that’s because people don’t that we exist, but we do and we are the one person that people hold their hand out to find help.”
Andria Caruso said callers threatening suicide are very challenging.
“We get them often and after each one, I just take a deep breath,” the Communications Operator said. “I really feel great after getting the people the help they really need and keeping them safe. The best part of the job is knowing how much of an impact you made on someone’s life and how much this one call they made had helped them.”
Operations Supervisor Thompson Morrow said his members go to work every day, expecting to provide an often-lifesaving link between emergency services and the public.
“You have no control about what calls come to you,” he pointed out. “You need to rapidly read that call, prioritize it and find an officer to give it to. Sometimes you have multiple high priority calls hitting your screen at one time. Those times can be extremely challenging as there are a finite number of resources, but not a finite number of calls.”
Take a moment to follow the Communications Services social media channels below. Please note the social channels are not for reporting purposes and are not monitored 24/7; in an emergency please call 9-1-1.
Twitter - @Comm911TPS
TikTok - @Comm911TPS