Column: Let’s thank those who answer our most desperate phone calls

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Lancaster County’s telecommunication officers serve as the lifeline between citizens in need and the public safety agencies that can help them.
Each year, the public safety TCOs at Lancaster County Public Safety Communications handle about 200,000 phone calls, including about 50,000 to 911. Every day, hundreds of people depend on the skill, expertise and commitment of the TCOs who work in public safety communications.
These team members have helped to save countless lives by handling emergency telephone calls, dispatching law enforcement, emergency medical, and fire/rescue resources, and providing moral support to people in distress.
The week of April 9-14 is National Telecommunicators Appreciation Week.
Lancaster County Public Safety Communications (LCPSC) has 24 TCOs and nine other support staff members. Sandy Cauthen is our longest-serving employee, with almost 30 years of service. Seven LCPSC staff members have been with the county more than 10 years. By contrast, nine were hired within the last year.
Also during the past year, our radio technician, Lamar Lambert, was recognized as Lancaster County’s Employee of the Quarter.
This staff is dedicated to serving the citizens when any needs arise.  
Our TCOs undergo rigorous testing and background checks prior to being hired. Once hired, new TCOs go through difficult training, including a two-week Basic Telecommunications Course at the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy, medical first-responder training, Federal Emergency Management Agency classes, National Crime Information Center classes, and many others.
These classes provide basic knowledge, but between six and 12 months of on-the-job training is necessary before a new TCO can operate at all positions independently. This process is very rigorous, and many candidates are unable to successfully complete the training program, due to the challenge and emotional demands of the job.
Please join Lancaster County as we celebrate the valuable contributions that our public safety communication officers make on a daily basis.
We are incredibly fortunate to have such talented and dedicated professionals who work so hard to serve the public and the responding agencies.
Let’s all thank them for doing such an excellent job at fulfilling this critical role in public safety.

Stephen Blackwelder is Lancaster County’s director of public safety communications.