Joint dispatch begins the third year

Joint dispatch begins the third year

By Anna Ferraro

PHOTO – Photo/Trey Hopkins

Phil McCarty, Director of Emergency Management/West Central Joint ETSB for Jacksonville and surrounding areas recently took some time out of his busy workweek to share with us about the creation and work of the West Central Joint Emergency Telephone System Board (ETSB) – “Joint Dispatch” – a process that began in 2015. He stated, “Joint Dispatch was started by a group of public safety leaders within Morgan County, including leaders from Morgan County ETSB, Morgan County Board, Morgan County Sheriff’s Department, Jacksonville Police Department, Village of South Jacksonville, City of Jacksonville and Passavant Hospital. With the pending changes in 911 regulations and the push to provide a central point for communication, each of the partners provided the leadership and guidance to bring Joint Dispatch reality for Morgan County.”

While these entities were in the process of joining up their services, 911 regulations required enhanced 911 services at the same level across all of Illinois. With this, Greene and Calhoun Counties joined them as well to create West Central Joint ETSB, which would provide 911 dispatch services to Morgan, Greene and Calhoun Counties from the dispatch center in Jacksonville. In addition to the 911 dispatch services, the West Central Joint ETSB Dispatch Center provides all dispatching services for law enforcement, fire, and EMS in Morgan County.

Born and raised in Jacksonville, McCarty is passionate about public service. As a teen working for Burrus Seed Farms he said, “they teach leadership at the grass root level of teamwork in the fields during the summer.” In his senior year at Jacksonville High School, he started his EMS education. From there, he earned his Paramedic license at Lincoln Land Community College. In his early private sector job, McCarty worked in the design and the more technical side of building dispatch centers. He shares, “my technical background along with my knowledge as a field paramedic allows for a better understanding of what happens within the dispatch center and how that provides for a good balance of dispatch and field operations.”

That prior leadership and field experience goes into good practice each day in his current job. McCarty shares, “The daily mission of our department is to provide high-quality dispatch service to the public and provide the same high-quality service to the public safety responders of the community.” Since they are the hub for constant communication between all the emergency agencies, McCarty prioritizes a healthy “teamwork environment within the center.”

The leadership team, comprised of McCarty, Assistant Director Beth Hopkins and Dana Blakeman work tirelessly to find the best people to fill these important jobs in our community. He says, “The staff that works with us are the best and if someone moves on to another location, filling that position is a challenge. This job is not for everyone and ensuring they can fit in the team is very important to us.”

McCarty shares how he loves the dispatch process, saying, “when the team gets a call, the caller is usually experiencing one of the worst moments of their lives.” Using a national protocol system, the center provides excellent steps to minimize that bad moment, to include having the dispatcher calm the caller with a steady voice while reassuring them that first responders are coming to the scene in a timely manner. McCarty summarized, “The level of teamwork provided not only in the dispatch center team but all the way to the responders in the field is just amazing.”

Like any highly demanding job, dispatching has some highly rewarding moments. When asked about the “this … makes it worth it all” moments in the work week, McCarty responded with, “When a member of the community or a first responder says ‘hey, tell the dispatchers they did a great job,'” those moments are the best. He concluded, “Like most first responders, dispatchers do tons of work with little to no notice of what they do in order to ensure the public is safe.”

Looking into the future, McCarty shared, “the goal for the dispatch center is the constant improvement. Not to accept ‘yes, we have done it all and gotten it all combined [into joint dispatch],’ but to continue to improve the services for the community and responders using technology and training for the staff.”

In closing, McCarty shared, “The success of the dispatch center is a whole-community approach, from the elected officials to the agency heads within three counties. We are only in our third year and improving all the time. While we work out the ever-coming challenges, we are not giving up and we are not going to stop improving. We have an amazing group of people who make up the dispatch center and they all give 100% towards making a positive impact on every single shift.”

Share This