NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week was dedicated to recognizing the first responders who answer emergency calls in Middle Tennessee and across the country.

“What we’re doing in Davidson County is true in all the counties in the region and across the state of Tennessee and and across the country, which is what makes this week so special,” said Metro Nashville Emergency Communications Director Stephen Martini. “It’s just an opportunity to appreciate the good work done by those folks under the headset to answer the call and dispatch the responders, and then done by those who support them — all the technology teams and administrators and trainers and all of those that give the tools to do the job. We just really take this week to celebrate that good work that’s done.”

Following the Covenant School shooting on March 27, Martini said one of their main focuses was addressing the mental health of their dispatchers.

“We tried to get critical incident stress debriefing setup very soon. A great partnership with the fire department sending folks to a facility there in Davidson County so they could get connection,” said Martini. “One of the most important things in those moments is those dispatchers connecting with field responders saying, ‘We took the call, we sent you out there and they see each other, they have a chance to say, okay, you’re okay, I’m okay. We’re okay. Right.'”

He said their folks have been to about four critical incident debriefings and have had another opportunity for another two or three, including one where they could bring their families.

“Just to process through how this impacted your loved one and what this looks like, moving forward.”

He said 14 minutes between the first 911 call to when Metro police killed the Covenant School shooter is an incredible response, but they are always looking for ways to improve.

“Are there areas where we can reduce the amount of time that it took to confirm that it was an active shooter, to find the closest unit to the scene and inform that closest unit, what was going on to make sure that and make sure that the path that they have to get there is very clear, and they know that process?” said Martini. “So we’re continuing to look at those things. Because if we can make 14 minutes, 12 minutes or 12 minutes, 10 minutes, all the better.”

The dispatchers were also not working out of their normal facilities because the communications center is undergoing a big renovation. The project is about $3.5 million at their primary center by Belmont University. Martini said the facility was refurbished back in 2002 but the space has not been touched from any significant way structurally for 20 years.

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One of the biggest issues is they had call takers and radio dispatchers separated on two floors.
Now they’re moving several more dispatch positions onto the main floor.

“In situations like we saw two weeks ago, you may not be able to type as fast as you can just stand up and look at the person who’s dispatching a radio and say, ‘the caller I’m talking to just said this’, and it’s going to that face to face interaction can beat any of the other interoperable technologies that we have at times. And that value is just huge.”

They’re also looking to better streamline non-emergency calls but having some of those dispatchers work remotely.

The renovation project started in May 2022 and they’re expecting to be operational in the renovated space by July.