AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, and emergency operators told us the boost of morale that comes with it is crucial now more than ever as departments face staffing shortages.

Supervisor Tina Pesina with APD emergency communications.
Supervisor Tina Pesina with APD emergency communications.

“Very intense through the entire night. You know, you’re monitoring the City of Austin,” said Austin Police Department Telecommunication Supervisor Tina Pesina, who manages the night shift.

According to the latest emergency communications report made to the Public Safety Commission, the department had 15 dispatch vacancies and 31 911 operator vacancies.

“It’s stressful,” said Pesina. But she doesn’t back down, and her colleagues know that.

“They’re like ‘you’re such an inspiration.’ And I’m like ‘I’m just doing my own thing,'” she said, laughing.

But an inspiration she is. About 30 years ago, she lost her leg after a drunk driver hit her while she was standing nearby. She’s on APD’s running team.

Supervisor Kimberly Schultz' dog Widget helps staff on tough days.
Supervisor Kimberly Schultz’ dog Widget helps staff on tough days.

“When I started here, I joined the APD run team,” she said. “I asked if he could incorporate me into the team, and he did not hold back.”

Over at the University of Texas Police Department, Communications Supervisor Kimberly Schultz and her dog Widget are the key morale boosters.

“He is here to help our emergency communications operators, officers, public safety officers and staff navigate difficult emotional days,” she said in an email. “Widget’s number one job is to make people smile. He knows so many tricks that it is nearly impossible for people to ignore how hard he is working for a smile.”

Schultz said her favorite part about working for UTPD is every day, she has “the potential to help someone and be a small part in making that person’s day better.”

Schultz has worked for UTPD for 26 years.

Widget is 4 years old, and Schultz believes he’s half Beagle, half Dachshund.