The initial first responders and commanders on scene of an emergency are the 911 operators who communicate with callers and direct the "boots on the ground" to the scene.
These telecommunications tell law enforcement where at the scene they should go said Lt. Tracy Felty of the Saline County Sheriff's Office.
Felty helped coordinate an eight hour day of classes for 911 operators regarding an active shooter situation Monday at Southeastern Illinois College.
Brenda Davis, a veteran of 36 years in law enforcement in the Atlanta, Ga., area was the teacher for 35 local 911 operators Monday. The students came from Saline County, Williamson County, SIU Dispatch, Eldorado Police Department, Perry County and Richland County. Each of them was an employed telecommunication from southeastern Illinois.
"The cost to the counties is minimal because of sponsorship by The Mobile Training Unit, Carbondale. The Sheriff showed up and monitored a class," said Felty.
Davis said, "There are two really important things for 911 operators to know. First, don't think 'it' will never happen here. Anything is possible. Second, telecommunicators are critical players. They are the true 'first' responders. They are the first incident commanders, dispatching resources to the most important locations."
Although she had no role in the incident, Davis was at the airport in Washington, D.C. during the recent Navy Yard shooting.
"I was flying out of Dulles when it happened," she said.
Davis said getting an accurate description of the assailant is one of the most important pieces of information a telecommunication can get.
"Telecommunicators need to listen actively and be creative in their questions.
Getting the description of the assailant is essential. First question should be what is the weapon. Next, the law enforcement people need to know is he white, black or hispanic? What is he wearing? How tall? how heavy?" she said.
Telecommunicators respond to such incidents in different ways, as she has personally experienced.
"I have worked an incident involving a shooter in Georgia. People respond differently to the stress. I get very calm when something critical is going down. It is like reverting to my training. I focus very tightly. Everyone reacts to incidents in their own way."
Davis teaches all around the U.S. She has taught at Yale and her next stop is Alaska. She is due to retire soon from the Marietta, Ga., Police Department where she has worked since age 18. She says she anticipates continuing to teach in her retirement.