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Letter to the Editor: Van Tassel owes dispatchers apology



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December 15, 2010 - Dear editor,

I would like to address some negative comments made on Dec. 6 by Orion Township Board Member JoAnn Van Tassel concerning the Oakland County Sheriff's Office. I have the unique viewpoint of both an Orion Township resident, taxpayer and a proud member of the Sheriff's 911 Center. I took the recent comments on cable TV made by one of my township officials extremely personally.

Dispatchers, regardless of which department they work for, don't do the job for fame or money, and rarely see much of either. This incredibly dedicated group of professionals does the job because they believe in the value and importance of helping people in times of crisis.

JoAnn Van Tassel recently made some disparaging comments in a public meeting about the Sheriff's 911 Center. I will agree that there are some flaws with the current emergency service arrangement in Orion.

"...We are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and parents. We understand that when you call 911 seeking help for a loved one or yourself that you need to hear a professional and compassionate person on the other end of the line who is able and ready to give you every bit of assistance within their power. That's what I believe you get when a member of the Oakland County Sheriff's Office Dispatch answers your call. "
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The biggest flaw, however, is easily remedied should our elected officials and citizens chose to make one key change. 911 calls placed from landlines currently go to the Lake Orion Village dispatcher who then ascertains if the emergency is that of a police, fire, or medical nature.

If the caller is in need of police assistance, which I might point out is over 80 percent of 911 calls placed, the Village dispatcher will then transfer the caller to Oakland County Dispatch. If the caller is in need of medical assistance, the Village dispatcher will then transfer the caller to a private ambulance company who is contracted to provide emergency pre-arrival instructions.

This sequence takes up precious time and delays emergency response. If the 911 calls were answered initially by the Sheriff's Dispatch, the person answering the phone would be able to get Deputies enroute faster, as well as provide essential medical instruction without the extra step of involving another agency.

If the life of my family member was being measured in seconds and minutes, I for one would not want to waste a single one on a telephone transfer.

I do not need to make disparaging remarks about other 911 centers to demonstrate what an outstanding dispatch center I work for. My coworkers prove themselves everyday. We are a team of professionals trained and certified in a wide variety of areas such as Emergency Medial and Fire dispatch, including CPR and first aid, domestic violence response, suicide intervention, hostage negotiations, dealing with juvenile callers, mass casualty situations, school violence response, and stress management. Each member brings a different background and set of life experiences to our team. We have teachers, firefighters, EMTs and ex-military members to name a few working for us.

More importantly though, we are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and parents. We understand that when you call 911 seeking help for a loved one or yourself that you need to hear a professional and compassionate person on the other end of the line who is able and ready to give you every bit of assistance within their power. That's what I believe you get when a member of the Oakland County Sheriff's Office Dispatch answers your call.

As a resident of Orion Township, I feel confident that my taxes are well spent on a police contract with the Sheriff's Office.

I trust my family's safety to them without a second thought, knowing that if I have to call for help, my call will be handled by an amazingly dedicated group of people. When one of my township officials comments that, "She would rather move out of the township than have the County for dispatch", I wonder why she won't demonstrate that same level of dedication to this community.

I invite each member of the Orion Township Board to personally come to the OCSO Communications Center for a first hand tour to see our dedicated dispatch professionals in action.

On behalf of my fellow 44 Dispatchers, we are owed a public apology.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Prince

Orion Township Resident and Oakland County Sheriff's Office Communications

Specialist

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