WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The Wichita Falls Police Department and its dispatchers are celebrating National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

Like every year during the second week of April, dispatchers are being recognized for their hard work nationwide to keep officials and their community safe.

Their voice is the first thing you hear when dialing 9-1-1. Dispatcher Steven Pickle has been in the field for almost 12 years serving the citizens of Wichita Falls.

“Honestly I was looking for a job at the time and saw 9-1-1 operator on the city website, and I remember watching Rescued 9-1-1 – it’s an old TV show; I think William Shatner was the voice when I was a kid – and remembering seeing people being helped that way and thought it would be really interesting, and here I am almost 12 years later,” Pickle said.

As a Dispatch Supervisor, Pickle said his job is to make sure his team is ready every day to receive calls and be on stand for any given situation.

“I come in, and I help make sure that everything is functioning properly first thing in the morning, making sure everyone is logged in and that they can answer calls and dispatch officers, and then I take over for people when they need to take a break or need to leave the room for any reason,” Pickle said. “If anybody needs to go home, I’ll take over and move into their position. Normal day for me is answer 9-1-1 with the crew and dispatch officers on the radio as well.”

The safety of the citizens is important for dispatchers, as well as the communication they have with first responders on duty.

“They are definitely a direct link to us and the citizens because the citizens are the customer, if you will,” WFPD Officer Robert Ruff said. “They are the one calling, usually experiencing something stressful, and they need some type of intervention, so the telecommunicators are extremely important in that aspect because they are going to get us the information that we need on the street.”

Pickle said some of the struggles they face while being on the job is not knowing what happens next.

“It’s stressful hearing people that are on an emergency situation, people that are crying because a loved one is in danger or hurting, hearing people fighting and not being able to physically help, you know, having to wait for officers to get out there and medical – whatever it is, and a lot of the times we don’t know what the outcome of the call is,” Pickle said.

The support of coworkers and loved ones is what dispatchers lean on after a hard call to keep going.

“Just helping people – knowing that every day we got home, we’ve made a difference,” Pickle said. “Someone is in a better position because of what we do.”

Day Shift Supervisor Steven Pickle was named the Unseen Hero for Thursday, April 14, by the WFPD.