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East Baton Rouge Parish praises EMS dispatchers, reminds people when to call 911

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BATON ROUGE - They’re the people you never see in an emergency situation, but they might be some of the most important people you’ll deal with.

Today is the last day of National EMS Communications Week.

While the week is for praising these workers, the city also hopes to clarify when you should dial 9-1-1.

Kiera Crawford answers more than 150 emergency calls a day.

“The phone is going to be ringing off the hook,” Crawford said.

She is the first one people speak to when they are in a crisis.

“We start answering 911 calls from the second we get on the shift,” she said.

Crawford is an EMS dispatcher. The Dispatch Unit answers all 911 calls for East Baton Rouge Parish, sending police, firefighters or an ambulance to the scene.

“That's always been challenging for me to get a pediatric cardiac arrest or anything like that,” she said.

The city praises these workers every year during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

“I think sometimes they get overlooked by the public, but they are the first link in the chain of survival,” EBR EMS Public Information Officer Mike Chustz said.

That’s why the week is also used to remind people about the appropriate time to call 911.

“A lot of those times when we get overloaded, a lot of those calls, they're not unnecessary, but they're unnecessary for 911,” Chustz said. “911 is for emergencies, life-threatening emergencies.”

Those life-threatening emergencies can also affect the people on the other end of the phone.

“We see some pretty sad things in this line of work,” he said. “I mean, it is what it is. It's what we do, but it's not all easy to deal with. Some of it affects you if some of it hits close to home.”

The city provides an emotional support dog and counseling anytime workers need support.

While the job gets tough, Crawford does not regret her career choice.

“It can be rough, but it also feels good that you are the first person to respond, to be able to be a helping hand,” Crawford said.

She asks callers to be familiar with their location. This will save time so that first responders can arrive to the emergency sooner.

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