HELENA – Local fire chiefs from around Lewis and Clark County are honoring their dispatcher of the year.
The Lewis and Clark Rural Fire Council presented the award to Zach Slattery, a lead dispatcher with the Helena-Lewis and Clark County 911 Center, during their monthly meeting last week.
“It was a great honor to get it, knowing that it comes from the chiefs for the rural fire departments that we work with, just knowing that there are people out there that do recognize us,” said Slattery.
Slattery has worked for the 911 Center for about ten years.
Dave Sammons, chief of the East Valley Fire Department and president of the Rural Fire Council, said the award was created several years ago, as a way to recognize dispatchers, who give first responders information and assistance they need as they go into an emergency situation.
“They are kind of unsung heroes to us,” he said. “They never get to see the outcome. They only get the immediate 911 and all the angst and chaos that comes with that, but they never get the end result.”
The chiefs interview dispatchers through the year, allowing them to better know people they might otherwise recognize only as voices over the radio.
This is the second year in a row that the fire council selected Slattery as dispatcher of the year. Sammons said Slattery stands out because of how he interacts with first responders.
“There’s all sorts of us out in rural fire when we’re talking to dispatchers, and God knows that we can get frustrating on our end of the radio,” he said. “Zach handles it well. He works really, really well with us.”
Sammons said Slattery is also good at anticipating how he can help the chiefs and what they might need from him.
Slattery said the most important part of his work is being an intermediary between callers and responders.
“When people call 911, it’s one of the worst days of their lives, and we’re there to start everything,” he said. “We have to remain calm to get the information that not only we need, but that our first responders need to eventually help that person.”
He said he’s grateful to be recognized, but that it takes cooperation to get the work done.
“It’s a team effort amongst our center,” he said. “Not one person can do this alone.”