WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — More people will soon be able to answer your 911 calls in Williamson County.
This week the Commissioners Court approved a $212 million general fund budget for the next fiscal year. That included funding for eight new 911 call takers. That’s the largest personnel request ever granted by the commissioners for the Emergency Communications department.
“All of our folks are equally trained to do both functions of answering the 911 call and also dispatching the call,” Scott Parker, the director of Emergency Communications, said. ” We are going to greatly improve our service by separating those roles by allowing one person to take that call, provide service and care over the phone, while simultaneously having a second person do the radio dispatching and get the resources started.”
Parker said hiring more call takers will help his department deal with increasing call volumes, as the county keeps growing. He said the call volume right now is rising by about 11 percent each year.
“We’re at about 300,000 incidents this year, and we’re on track for that 11 percent again next year,” Parker said. “It’s incredible growth with the population increase we’ve seen in Williamson County.”
The commissioners approved $730,000 in the budget for Emergency Communications. In addition to making these eight new hires, that money will allow Parker’s department to expand training so that new employees can better handle the rigors of this stressful job.
“We are truly being recognized now as the first first responders because we make that initial contact,” Melissa Martinez, a veteran call taker, said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen as soon as we pick up the phone and say, ‘911, do you need police, fire or an ambulance?'”
Martinez will help train some of the new call takers when they’re hired. She plans to tell them about some of the stressful experiences she’s had on the job. During her 14-year career in Williamson County, she once talked to a man just before he took his own life. On another call, though, she helped panicked parents resuscitate their unconscious child.
“When I heard the baby cry, I wanted to burst into tears myself,” Martinez said, smiling, “because I’m like, thankfully, yay!”
She’s now encouraging people to apply for these eight new call taker jobs. Even though there may be high stakes involved with some of the calls, she said it’s a career that allows her to give back to her community.
“I have a servant’s heart,” Martinez said. “It’s just always been a passion for me.”