Writer / Renee Larr
Many people don’t think about 911 until they have to use it in an emergency. Hamilton County Public Safety Communications is the county’s connection to emergency response agencies.
“We answer the 911 calls and then dispatch the appropriate public safety agencies like police, fire and EMS for the county,” says Jeff Schemmer, executive director.
Schemmer was appointed executive director in February of 2019, bringing 34 years of experience in public safety.
“I oversee the total operations of the center, handle the budgeting, research emerging technologies, and work with the other public safety agencies throughout the county to better serve Hamilton County residents,” Schemmer says.
He started his career as a frontline dispatcher and worked his way up to his current role.
“I was working in another county and getting ready to take another position out of state,” Schemmer says. “I was approached about coming to work here. It was a no-brainer decision. Hamilton County has an incredible reputation from a public safety standpoint. Hamilton County was always one of the counties we watched to see how they did things.”
Educating the public on the usage of 911 is one of Schemmer’s duties as executive director.
“We have a public information officer that goes out into the community to explain to the public when to use 911 and when not to use 911,” Schemmer says. “That officer also explains emerging technologies like Smart911.”
Smart911 allows people to register their cellular phone number and associate it with a physical address.
“When someone calls 911 from a landline, it’s automatically associated with an address,” Schemmer says. “If a resident registers their cell phone number with Smart911, it then associates it with whatever address they’ve provided. If we get a hang-up from a cell phone, we at least have the potential for an address to be able to send somebody out and see if there is an actual emergency.”
Schemmer also works to maintain the mental health of the 911 dispatchers.
“Being a dispatcher is a stressful job,” Schemmer says. “They hear a lot of raw information right off the bat. Sometimes they’re reporting an unconscious family member or a lost child. Sometimes they give CPR instructions on the phone. The tough part for the dispatchers is they don’t receive any closure. They have to hang up and take the next tragic call. That’s why one of the things we’re doing right now is putting a premium on mental health and finding ways to help our dispatchers deal with those situations.”
Schemmer doesn’t take his role lightly.
“One of the things that impressed me about Hamilton County was how well all the public service agencies work together,” Schemmer says. “The residents of Hamilton County have a certain level of expected service. My responsibility for my department is to be able to deliver that service. I’m always keeping my eyes open for things that could provide better service for the residents. We’re all fortunate in the fact that not just our elected officials, but also our citizens are excellent about supporting us and what we do.”
For more information about Hamilton County Public Safety Communications, visit hamiltoncounty.in.gov/149/911-Communications.