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Hometown Helpers: 911 dispatcher helps save lives

Hometown Helpers

IDAHO FALLS — Every week, EastIdahoNews.com is introducing you to Hometown Helpers in our community. We want to spotlight firefighters, police officers, city workers, snowplow drivers and others who quietly keep our cities and counties running.

This week, we are featuring Patrick Nunez, an emergency communications officer or a dispatcher. He has been working at the Idaho Falls Bonneville County 911 Dispatch Center for five years. The center operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Someone is here day and night, no matter what time,” said Nunez.

He works three days with 12-hour shifts and one day with a six-hour shift.

The center dispatches for the Idaho Falls Police Department, Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office, Ucon Police Department, Idaho Falls Fire & EMS, Ammon Fire, Swan Valley Fire, and Ucon Fire.

Nunez works as one of the community’s “first” first responders. He loves serving the community and said he was born and raised in the area.

“It kind of feels good to give something back. I enjoy it,” he said.

Nunez looks at eight different computer screens at work which include maps, a phone screen, and a radio screen.

Technology has helped his job and respond to 911 calls sometimes in a different way.

“If you don’t know where you’re at, we can find you pretty quickly. Text 911 is a huge help now. Like, if you are not in a situation where you can call— you can text us, we can get a location on your phone,” he said.

He takes hundreds of calls along with his coworkers daily.

In fact, in 2021, the center received 215,234 phone calls from the public which includes 911 and non-emergency calls. That’s about 590 calls from the public each day.

When the phone rings, he never knows what he’s going to get.

“We don’t talk to people when they are having a good day usually,” he said. “There are over 30 call types. The domestic violence calls, the vehicle accidents with injuries, the pediatric calls…”

Dispatchers can help walk callers through CPR and even help deliver babies over the phone. Nunez has had some very memorable experiences.

“Last week, there was a choking baby. The mom was freaking out obviously but I walked her through it—the Heimlich, got it out and she was happy and an ambulance was close,” Nunez said. “Just little things like that happen once in a while. Everyone (in dispatch here) probably has a story like that where someone is choking, someone is not breathing, someone overdoses—we walk them through the Narcan process, they wake up.”

According to an Idaho Falls Police Department spokeswoman, Nunez and all of the dispatchers who aren’t new, are certified by the Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training for Emergency Communications Officers. Nunez is also certified for medical dispatching, which means he can provide instructions for emergency medical care – CPR for example.

Nunez explained there is a misconception sometimes when people call 911.

“When the public calls, sometimes they think me asking information is delaying a response which is not the case. We have a call taker and someone manning each radio, so me taking the call of the disturbance or something is not hindering the response from responders,” he said. “I’m simply gathering more information for them so they know what they are arriving to. That’s probably the biggest misconception at least that people think them getting information is stopping from someone showing up but they’ve been on the way since you’ve called.”

Each dispatcher is trained for different roles, which is listed below:

  • “Call taker” (receive calls from the public)
  • “Law” (dispatching/maintaining communication with all police officers in the area)
  • “Fire” (dispatching/maintaining communication with all Fire/EMS in the area)
  • “Wants” which is for more in-depth needs from law enforcement (checking to make sure a person’s driver’s license is valid, they don’t have any warrants, etc.)

Each dispatcher is prepared to jump in for any of these roles as needed.

Currently, the dispatch center is hiring for both full-time and part-time positions. Click here for full-time and click here for part-time. The dispatch center allows “sit-alongs” for people who are interested in a dispatch career.

National Emergency Communications Officers Week or Dispatch Week is coming up April 11 – 17.

Nunez shows every day that he’s a Hometown Helper by saving lives, helping first responders, and the community.

If you know a Hometown Helper that we should feature, email andrea.olson@eastidahonews.com.

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