Former 911 Dispatcher Blames Experience And Training - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/17/04 - Smith County

Former 911 Dispatcher Blames Experience And Training

A former Smith County 911 dispatcher says she is worried for the public's safety, when it comes to calling for help. Her outspoken comments are the latest in a series of problems for the county's six-month old 911 system.

"I'm scared to death for the citizens and property," said former 911 dispatcher Rhonda Goldthorn, "and I don't know what can be done. I mean, I know what could have been done."

Nine years of 911 dispatching experience walked away six months ago when Goldthorn left her job with Smith County. In fact, she says, nearly 50 years of combined experience either left or quit when Smith County gave up control of the system.

"If we had been guaranteed jobs and taken care of better, you'd have trained people over there right now, you know, and this stuff wouldn't be going on," said Goldthorn. "Plus, you'd have enough trained people, where the new people would be properly trained."

The former Texas Telecommunicator of the Year says a lack of training and experience are the main reasons why the Smith County 911 communications district is experiencing growing pains. Of 16 current dispatchers, she pointed out just four who, she says, are fully trained.

Smith County 911 Communications District Director Eddie Goldsmith sees it differently. He says the district is running smoothly, handling three thousand incidents a month, with very few problems. He's also very committed to high standards.

"If I have a trainer, and I have a supervisor, and I have an operations manager that brings me in the paper that's saying that dispatcher is totally qualified," said Goldsmith, "my first response is, I don't sign it. I go out there and I ask that dispatcher, how do you feel about what you're doing? If they say that they don't feel comfortable, then right back into training they'll be until they can tell me that they feel comfortable with what they do."

Rhonda does admit that given enough time, these problems will eventually go away. But she says, it's a situation that shouldn't have had to happen.

Kevin Berns reporting

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