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Telecommunications Week honors 911 operators

PHOENIX -- Every year during the second full week of April, the nation honors hundreds of thousands of unsung heroes during Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

"I think of dispatchers as the first responders," said 911 operator Shirley Dunlap. "We take the phone call, we get that truck on the road and we make a difference right from the get-go."

Dunlap is one of roughly 100 dispatchers currently employed by the Phoenix Fire Department. These men and women dispatch for over 20 cities around the Valley and answer thousands of calls every day.

The job is rewarding, but emotionally and psychologically taxing for some. These operators deal with life, death and every type of tragedy that happens in between.

"You hang up and you know the person didn't make it," said Dunlap. "You think, 'I was the last person they talked to.' I will never forget those calls."

According to APCO International, Telecommunicators Week was conceived in the early 1980s by Patricia Anderson of the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office in California. The idea caught on and APCO led the way for a formal proclamation in October 1991.

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About the Author


Sandra moved from the small border city of Yuma, Arizona to study Broadcast Journalism at Arizona State University in the late 90s. Since graduating, she's worked at several local TV stations including Univision, Fox 10 and 3TV.

Working at KTAR, has allowed her the opportunity to cover major national news events, including Presidential visits, the Tucson Tragedy and the Wallow fire.

When Sandra isn't covering breaking news or behind a microphone in the studio, she's probably at home with her best friend Mark and her two dogs, Lily and Lola.

Sandra enjoys cooking and admits to enjoying "really bad" reality T.V. She also enjoys spending quiet time at home with people she loves, playing a little poker and traveling.

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