A look behind the scenes: 911 Dispatch

Posted at: 04/25/2013 4:55 PM
Updated at: 04/25/2013 11:52 PM
By: Jessica Layton

NEW SCOTLAND - When your life is on the line, they're the first in line to get you help -- the comforting voice on the other end of the phone in your most desperate time.

The Albany County 911 Dispatch Center gets flooded with about 120,000 calls a year.

Kevin Demarest leads a life where the job is different every day. The one constant -- someone is always depending on him and his staff of Albany County dispatchers.

"We've saved thousands and thousands of people," he said.

For the outsider looking in it seems very high pressure. Demarest says he felt that when he started. Back then they were feverishly writing down caller's information with pen and paper. That was in the early 1990s.

Now it's a sophisticated, seemingly confusing system of computers, maps to track where calls are coming from and data displaying the caller's information and situation. Here at the New Scotland center, they've got the technology of 10,000 calls for help a month down to a science.

Though the call isn't always a matter of life and death. There are often stories of people making calls for stupid things.

"We get them all the time," dispatcher Andrew Williams said.

For Williams, that's one of the frustrations on the job. Like the Albany guy who needed a ride, or the woman who had a drunken craving for cigarettes.

Sometimes kids accidentally get a hold of the phone.

Maybe you have even called unintentionally.

"A lot of people will misdial. They think they're calling 411 to get information," Williams said.

If you ever realize you accidentally pocket dialed 911, don't hang up. Stay on the line and let them know you're okay. And try not to do it again.

"It's a big waste of resources when people don't utilize the system properly," Demarest said.

It may tie up a lifeline that could be used to save a stranger or someone you know.

On night WNYT visited the dispatch center there was a flood of calls for medical emergencies.

NewsChannel 13 was there as Williams walked an elderly man through the steps for helping his 82-year-old wife who was having chest pains. Cue cards guide dispatchers through step by step. As he's getting information, his colleague is relaying everything to paramedics who are already on their way. Williams stays on the phone until help arrives.

The dispatchers always staying cool and calm under pressure no matter the situation.