Rockford 911 operation ensures every call is answered

ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR) -- The Winnebago County Board is open to re-establishing a partnership agreement with Rockford's 911 call center, after sending the city a letter saying payments would stop immediately.

Inside a 911 call center

"You just don't treat partners the way that they have," says Mayor Tom McNamara.

The county is attempting to close its $4.8 million budget deficit, and were halting the $48,000 monthly payments to 911 center as a result.

"Let's be clear, it's not a budget reduction methods for logical folks," says McNamara. "By state statue call taking is a county function, they were paying us as a partner to take their calls."

Inside the Rockford call center, it was business as usual.

"It's repetitive work, and it's really stressful work," says John Girone, the shift supervisor. "911 lines don't get put on hold."

He says the telecommunicators answer up to 400 emergency calls a day, including calls from the county.

Telecommunicator Nicholas Ladd says they are the first responders that get the first responders to the scene. "We have to be there or nobody else knows about it," he says. "People are calling in for help to various degrees on how much help that they need or require. Sometimes they're just confused and don't know whom else to call. So we're the ones here to help them."

Monitors around the center provide everything from weather updates, to locations of units in the county.

The center staffs a minimum of three operators per shift. The work runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Girone explains a large part of the job requires a calm presence, and the ability to respond accordingly.

"It's usually the worst day of someones life when they call in," he says. "In the forefront of [the operator's] mind it's like 'yeah this is the 15th domestic call I've taken today, but it's the first time this lady has called about it, so it's just as important as the other 14 I took."