Emergency dispatchers honored in Chico

Apr 15, 2014 6:33 PM

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, phones constantly ring at the Chico Police and Fire Dispatch Center. Workers there are very busy fielding all kinds of calls.

“Sometimes you have screaming, frantic people and their child’s not breathing,” said Lei Upton, a longtime Chico Police dispatcher. “Or they’ve been in an accident or someone’s bleeding.”

In 2013, dispatchers in Chico handled nearly a quarter million calls--45,000 of which were 911 related. That works out to about an emergency call every 11 minutes, and all that hard work is appreciated.

“Everything that we do on the street, we really need to be as safe as we can,” said Chico Police Department Sgt. Rob Merrifield. “We count on (dispatchers) a lot to keep us safe.”

This week, emergency dispatchers from across the country were honored during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. In Chico, several law and fire officials took time out to thank what they call their behind-the-scene heroes.

“For us on the street we rely on dispatch to keep us safe to keep us informed to basically keep track of us,” Merrifield said.

Upton has worked at the Chico Dispatch Center for more than 14 years and says each shift can pretty intense pretty fast.

“It can go from routine welfare-type calls to chaos and fights and shootings from one second to another,” she said. “You never know what to expect.”

And despite all the drama, it’s a job Upton says is vital to well-being of her community and one that she will always be thankful to do.

This type of work is not for everybody but is very necessary.

At Tuesday night’s Chico City Council Meeting, Chico Police will find out if their budget is approved to hire two more dispatchers.


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