911... what's your emergency?'

A 'typical' day for members of the Madison County E-911 Communications Center includes picking up the phone to instruct callers in cardiopulmonary resuscitation to save a stranger's life, coaching nervous daddies-to-be on delivering their children and calming gunshot victims awaiting help.

"We can now be the true first-responders," said dispatcher David Carpenter. "We direct people in life-saving techniques over the telephone. People have the misconception that we just sit here and listen to the radio; not even close. Thanks to tools and training, we save lives now. We used to just take the call and send help."

E-911 employees 13 full-time and six part-time public safety communicators, said Director Paul Hartnett. Eight of the full-timers have current fire-fighting and emergency medical technician experience; five of the part-timers also boast first-responder backgrounds.

Carpenter has been an emergency medical dispatcher for about six years and is one of two with an Emergency Dispatch Quality (EDQ) certification in the Tri-County area. Madison County dispatchers serve approximately 70,000 residents, not including those passing through on major thoroughfares such as the state Thruway.

According to Carpenter it's not uncommon to receive 30 to 100 calls during evening shifts, sometimes that many just for a Thruway accident.

After a $3 million equipment upgrade paid for with state grant funds three years ago, the Communications Center converted to a computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system that stores lists of county fire departments, EMS and law enforcement agencies, along with property tax map information and pictometry capabilities that provide aerial photos. This allows staff to zoom in on homes and streets to give responders clear directions and landmarks to help them find the scenes of emergencies.

When someone calls 911 from a landline, an address pops up on the dispatcher's computer screen. The dispatcher asks for address and telephone number confirmation.

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