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Lunch provided for 911 center staff

HUGULEY — Local civic clubs, businesses and restaurants are continuing to treat hospital workers, first responders and 9-1-1 dispatchers with free lunches. On Tuesday, the Valley Lions Club bought lunch for the employees of the Chambers County communications center. The Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and Pokey’s in downtown West Point teamed up to provide lunch for the day shift workers at EAMC-Lanier Hospital.

At just after 11 a.m. EDT, Terri Culpepper of Terri’s Mill Village Cafe brought in a hearty lunch for the dispatchers and administrators at the communications center.

Kathy Hornsby, deputy director at the 9-1-1 center, said that this kind of community outreach is much appreciated.

These are stressful times everywhere for 9-1-1 centers.

“This job cannot go on hold. We have to keep going,” Hornsby said. “Everyone here has specialized training. You can’t just take someone off the street and get them to do this overnight. They have to go through some intensive training.”

For that reason, it’s very important the dispatchers and administrators can avoid getting sick and to stay on the job.

“Each person who works here enters through the back of the building,” Hornsby said. “Before they can come in, each person’s temperature is taken, and they are asked if they have any flu-like symptoms.”

Fortunately, no one has tested positive for the coronavirus.

That’s not the case at all dispatch centers. Hornsby said that at one communications center in a heavily populated county, 12 dispatchers missed work due to illness.

That can be devastating for a community. It’s also devastating when police officers, firefighters, paramedics and hospital staff cannot work due to illness.

At Chambers County’s Donald A. Smith Communications Center, there’s five or six dispatchers and up to three administrators present on every shift. Adjustments can be made if a couple of people are out, but it can be a problem if five or six are out on one shift.

When lunch arrived at EAMC-Lanier on Tuesday, Sharon Holloway and Kristy Bowen of human resources and Linde Lashley of the IT department were there to receive it at the front door. On behalf of the first shift workers, they expressed thanks to representatives of the chamber and Pokey’s.

On Wednesday, the Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) will be providing meals for both the day and night shifts. Later on, they will be treating all shifts plus the housekeeping department.