Banners displayed on Ohio bridge pay tribute to emergency dispatchers
The "thin gold line" banners were installed in observance of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week
Record-Courier, Kent, Ohio
KENT, Ohio — Those driving through downtown Kent this month may notice black and gold banners lining either side of the Main Street Bridge.
The banners were installed on Friday in preparation for National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (NPSTW). They will remain on the Main Street Bridge until April 24. In 2020, NPSTW is recognized from Sunday, April 12 to Saturday, April 18.
The black and gold stripes on the banners are meant to recognize and celebrate emergency dispatchers. They look very similar to ones that were displayed on the bridge to honor Kent police and fire personnel in May and October, respectively. Instead of a "thin blue line" or "thin red line," however, the banners feature a golden line. "The thin gold line," as it is known, is a symbol used to represent dispatchers.
"We're the glue that holds the thin blue line and the thin red line together," Kent Dispatcher Rebecca Schneider said.
The decision to install the banners started with a conversation between Schneider and Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala.
Schneider has spent 19 years as a dispatcher, 17 of those with the Kent Police Department. Firefighters and police officers sometimes witness incidences that stay with them forever. Similarly, Schneider said, dispatchers hear a lot of things over the phone. She and her coworkers not only support the police and fire departments, they support each other as well.
"A lot of people don't know what dispatchers do," Schneider said. "They think we just answer the phone and send the officers out, but there's so many other things we do. We all have side jobs that we do. We all have specialties that we do."
In addition to handling calls into the station, dispatchers at the Kent Police Department perform a myriad of tasks from compiling statistics to send to federal agencies to visiting the local Safety Town program. Schneider said dispatchers have also hosted classes on subjects like PTSD and coping mechanisms as well as how to properly use a cell phone in an emergency. Dispatchers have also greeted students on the first day of school, collected school supplies to donate and assisted in food drives.
Schneider, herself, has done extensive work with Raven Packs, a non-profit community initiative dedicated to ending childhood hunger in the Ravenna School District.
Like the banner dedication ceremonies that were held for Kent police and fire departments, Kent dispatchers were also supposed to be honored with one. Measures in place to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus, however, have postponed those plans until next year.
"We have 12 of (dispatchers) in Kent and, frankly, the respect needs to go with them because when somebody dials 911, these young ladies and gentlemen are there to serve the citizens of Kent," Fiala said. "I think this is just a little way of showing recognition to the people that are our first responders."
Fiala said he does think the banners are a positive presence in the community. He hopes that, by driving on the bridge and looking at social media, citizens will understand the purpose of the banners and why they need to respect dispatchers.
Schneider said she was unaware of other agencies that celebrate NPSTW in a similar capacity. She did say, however, that she hopes the banners inspires other cities to do so.
"I kind of feel like it's a gift to all of the dispatchers, these banners," Schneider said. "Dispatchers in surrounding agencies and in the state and in the nation. This is a gift."
One way citizens can show support is by contacting local politicians and advocating for the dispatchers to be reclassified as first responders, Schneider said. Citizens are also encouraged to thank dispatchers by writing a letter to the Kent Police Department or by contacting the agency through its social media pages.
Schneider asked that those considering sending treats to Kent dispatchers to instead donate the money they would use for that to Kent Social Services instead.
©2020 Record-Courier, Kent, Ohio