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Dispatchers Trained To Address Children In Peril



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Dispatchers Trained To Address Children In Peril

 By Andrew Gorosko

Staffers at the emergency dispatching center at Town Hall South now have reference information on hand to help them handle emergency calls reporting cases of children in peril, according to Maureen Will, town director of emergency communications.

The dispatching center at 3 Main Street handles all local 911 calls, as well as police, fire, and ambulance radio communications.

Ms Will recently attended a training seminar on the subject at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va. Such training is designed for law enforcement personnel and emergency 911 call managers.

That training provides participants with a better understanding of the issues facing missing, abducted, and sexually exploited children, and how best to deal with the report of a missing child when the response time in such a situation is critical.

“This has been one of the most valuable experiences for me in my career and…I will be better able to serve the officers at the Newtown Department of Police Services,” she said.

Dispatchers who work at the communications center have taken online instruction in terms of handling calls involving missing and exploited children, Ms Will explained.

The training that she received addressed the steps that are needed to address emergency calls on missing and exploited children regarding the best practices for call takers, for responding police officers, and for police investigators, as well as for police commanders.

Ms Will explained that calls that may be received by the dispatch center may potentially involve the issues of lost children, missing children, runaways, “thrown-away” children, sexually exploited children, and child pornography.

When fielding calls on such subject matter, the emergency dispatchers would refer to reference material providing specific responses for specific situations. Such reference material is available to dispatchers in both printed and electronic form, Ms Will said.

The emergency communications center in the past has received calls involving children who have wandered away from home, Ms Will said.

Most recently last summer, such calls emanated from a Newtown residence where children had wandered away from home after which police successfully responded to find the missing children.

Until it had gotten the communications training for dispatchers on missing/exploited children, the town had taken a “common sense approach” to handling such emergency calls, Ms Will said.

The dispatcher whom a caller reaches via telephone is their first point of emergency contact in the situation, Ms Will noted, stressing the importance of that contact.

The dispatcher then gathers pertinent info and relays it to the appropriate agency, she noted.

During the perhaps five to ten minutes that a dispatcher would handle such an emergency call, the dispatcher would collect as much information as possible, she said.

Having received the training, the dispatchers are now better prepared to field such calls with heightened professionalism, she said.

“My staff holds people’s lives in their hands…Kids are the most valuable population that we have,” Ms Will added.

Ms Will said that Newtown emergency dispatching center is the first such facility in the state to have its personnel certified with such training.

That training prepares the dispatchers for various child-related emergency calls including wandering children, children abducted by someone they know, and children abducted by strangers. Such situations pose high risks to the victims, she noted.

“You have to be ready. You have to train,” she said.

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