It's National Public Safety Telecommunications Week - a way to recognize the first responders that are the first to get the call in an emergency. In Washoe County, REMSA handles all of the medical calls. All REMSA dispatchers are either EMT's or Paramedics.

"A lot of them, like myself, also actively work in the field and I think that brings a very unique perspective," said Adam Heinz, REMSA Director of Communications. "One day I'm out in the ambulance providing care on the roadside and the next I'm working on a headset and providing care over the phone."

The medical training is key in situations where seconds count.

"I like to refer to dispatchers as the regions first-first responders because they're able to provide instructions like hemorrhage control," Heinz said. "If you're choking, they can provide information on performing the Heimlich or giving chest compressions, and if we do that early that is what makes a difference in a crisis."

REMSA dispatchers handle a quarter of a million calls a year and those numbers are on the rise.

"Over the last three years we've seen an increase of about 17 percent and it fluctuates during the season when we have more people in the county," Heinz said.

Here, no two calls are the same and there's always something new to learn.


"Training is a big component of all this," said Kenny Kitts, a communications specialist who has been fielding emergency calls for the last 25 years. "To be honest with you, you can do it for 25 years and still learn some new techniques and strategies of how to take a call."


Dispatchers are there to provide both medical expertise and a calm voice during what is often the worst day of a caller's life.

"Sometimes the callers are going thorough a period in their life that is very traumatic," Kitts said. "One thing you have to do is remain calm, get control of the caller, make sure we get the information we need for an accurate and timely response."

This week is a way to recognize the unsung heroes behind the headsets.

"It's more than just picking up the phone and having someone dispatch an ambulance, its part of healthcare," Heinz said. "It's where healthcare starts and here at REMSA we like to say that care starts with the call."