Communication is key in safety

As “National Public Safety Telecommunicator’s Week” moves along, we continue to recognize the public safety telecommunication workers in Wilson County for their role in providing emergency assistance to those in need at all hours.
Apr 18, 2014


As “National Public Safety Telecommunicator’s Week” moves along, we continue to recognize the public safety telecommunication workers in Wilson County for their role in providing emergency assistance to those in need at all hours.

Area emergency 911 calls first begin at Wilson 911, as every 911 call made within Wilson County goes directly to Wilson 911.

Following Wilson 911 call taker’s assessments of the emergency location and problem, calls are then routed to different places and departments throughout the area, based on areas like medical, law enforcement, rescue and fire.

Wilson County Emergency Management Agency receives a bulk of the calls, as they answer for EMS, fire, rescue and hazardous materials for all of Wilson County.

The WEMA Emergency Communications Center (ECC) is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has eight full-time and four part-time dispatchers on staff. WEMA dispatchers are trained in Public Safety Telecommunicator, Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD) and Fire Service Communications.

In the event of an emergency at Wilson 911, the WEMA ECC also serves as the back-up Wilson 911 location.

Within Lebanon, the Lebanon Police Department Communications Division is tasked to dispatch calls. This division handles routine and emergency calls to law enforcement, fire and animal control. After 5 p.m., they also answer public works calls.

Chief Scott Bowen praised the work the department’s dispatchers do and how important it is.

“[Dispatchers] are the first voice that our citizens hear when they call,” said Bowen. “A lot of these calls are made when people are at their most desperate time of need and a proper response is so important.”

According to Lebanon police Communications Supervisor Courtney Sellars, on average, the Lebanon communications division answers 150 to 200 calls a day, 5,700 calls each month, and the highest calls in a year has totaled more than 60,000.

“At any given point, we can have 15 lines ringing at once,” Sellars said. “We have four 911 lines, 10 regular lines and a TTY machine, which is a phone for the hearing impaired.”

Sellars said an interesting fact was that during the day 25 to 35 percent of the calls they receive are for animal control. However, most calls that come in are law enforcement calls, she said.

Calls received after 5 p.m. are strictly calls for service.

“A majority of our work is done on the radio,” Sellars said. “We try to keep one dispatcher with an officer on a call for a traffic stop or fire the whole way through, and then the other dispatcher to answer the phones.”

As far as qualifications for a Lebanon police dispatcher go, Sellars said there are a few of the same qualifications as police officers have, with some variation.

Sellars said those looking to dispatch must be 18 years old, a high school graduate and pass a background check. For 50 percent of their score, she said applicants must also test for skills like multi-tasking and data entry and other skills needed to be a dispatcher.

“The main thing that catches our attention is the multi-tasking,” Sellars said. “If you can’t handle multi-tasking things, stress or stay cool under pressure, then this isn’t the job for you.

“And you can’t teach people that, it’s natural,” Sellars said. “We can teach how to use the phone or type, but not to multi-task or stay calm.”

Sellars said right now she felt she had an “amazing, solid team” of 12 part- and full-time dispatchers, some who have been there more than a decade. 

There are three eight-hour shifts for Lebanon police dispatchers, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3 to 11 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Two dispatchers work at a time on each shift.

Lebanon police dispatchers also are responsible for entering and maintaining the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) records. These consist of missing or wanted persons, stolen cars, weapons, license plates and other items that have an identification number. NCIC serves law enforcement agencies at a local, state and federal level. Special certification for dispatchers is required, as well as proficiency in the system.

Along with Lebanon, Mt. Juliet police also has a communications center staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by police dispatchers.

This center, like Lebanon, manages calls from citizens in the city of Mt. Juliet and officers.

According to Mt. Juliet police, its communications center consists of six full-time and three relief dispatchers. They are required to be certified by Tennessee state law and complete a 40-hour Tennessee Information Enforcement System (TIES) basic certification course through the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. TIES allows links between state and federal communications systems which include the TBI’s Tennessee Criminal History Repository, Tennessee Department of Safety databases, the Tennessee Crime Information Center, the FBI’s National Crime Information Center and the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System.

For more information on WEMA visit For more information on 

Lebanon police visit, and for more information on Mt. Juliet police visit


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