The job of a dispatcher often goes unnoticed until an emergency.
"We are the hidden heroes," said Alcorn County E911 Director Kim McCreless. "A dispatcher has to be very caring and make a lot of sacrifices."
A week in April has been set aside to honor individuals who have the role of being the initial first responders during an emergency situation. National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week is set for April 13-19 around the country to honor those in the Emergency Communications field.
"Over the last few years we have been contacting local businesses to do something as a thank you for our dispatchers," said the 911 director. "Their response has been amazing."
Close to 70 businesses have stepped up to make the week a special one for the 11 full-time and four part-time dispatchers. The department also employs a full-time and part-time secretary.
"We have a great group of people," said McCreless, who has been a part of E911 for 19 years. "The job is something that gets in your blood."
Each year, the second full week of April is dedicated to the men and women who serve as public safety telecommunicators.
The official name of the week was originally introduced in Congress in 1991. The Congressional resolution stated there were more than "500,000 telecommunications specialists," although other estimates put the number of dispatchers at just over 200,000.
"We just don't answer the phone," said 11-year veteran dispatcher Murry Bragg. "Each day we strive to make Alcorn County safer and better."
McCreless said her department has set aside a day when all the employees will get together for a meal and celebrate the week.
"It will be a special night that we can't normally do because we are all working different shifts," said the director. "It's just a big family along with firemen and police."
A desire to help has led local dispatchers to the profession.
"This is a calling for me," said dispatcher Selina Hastings. "I felt a need to help people and I like knowing what I do benefits others."
"Knowing I made a difference to help others keeps me coming back every day," added Bragg.
Emergency Communications is not a job, according to Hastings.
"It is a personal commitment of our minds and talents to benefit the people we serve," she said.
"It is a higher calling for us with tremendous responsibility that demands personal sacrifice, not for self-interest, but for the common good of all people," added McCreless. "The calling isn't suited for everyone, but we have chosen it as ours."