By Ian Parkinson

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff 

In our line of work, we often hear about those heroes who go above and beyond during a traumatic major incident. But in this column, I want to highlight those unsung heroes, who go above and beyond on a daily basis. Of course, I’m talking about the dedicated dispatchers who work at the Sheriff’s Office.

Quite simply, our dispatch center is the primary public safety answering point responsible for all 911 calls in the county of San Luis Obispo, as well as the cities of Arroyo Grande and Morro Bay. They maintain communication and direct resources to the citizens of these areas. That includes law enforcement resources as well as paramedics, and numerous county and state departments. 


It’s important to know the Sheriff’s Office is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) certified dispatchers. The center is responsible for receiving calls for service from the citizens of the community, and sending appropriate resources like law enforcement, ambulances, rescue helicopters, and other personnel as needed. That’s a tall order. Don’t forget we cover more than 3,000 square miles and serve more than 122,000 residents. 

To give you an idea about the workload of our dispatchers let me give you some fast facts. In 2022, the Sheriff’s Dispatch Center answered more than 243,000 phone calls averaging over 20,000 calls per month. 911 calls were answered in 15 seconds or less, 99 percent of the time. That surpasses the California state standard of 95 percent. 

No doubt about it. This is a high-stress job. As one dispatcher described it, “you are dealing with people who may be experiencing the worst day of their lives.” 

That’s a lot to deal with every day. Calls for domestic violence, child abuse, and drug overdoses can take a toll over time. But there are also many rewarding aspects to the job. I always like to tell the story of one of our dispatchers who received a call regarding a person who was suffering from an apparent cardiac event and wasn’t breathing. The dispatcher was able to dispatch an ambulance and then was able to give CPR instructions over the phone to a family member until paramedics arrived on the scene. The person lived and made a full recovery. They were so grateful that they showed up to our dispatch center and presented that dispatcher with a bouquet of flowers. Stories like that happen every day. Not necessarily the part about the flowers, but about our dispatchers saving lives and helping others.

And there are changes coming to our dispatch center. We are in the process of building a new 17,000-square-foot joint dispatch facility for the Sheriff’s Office and County/Cal Fire staff. The new facility will be located adjacent to the existing Sheriff’s North Station off Main Street in Templeton. When complete, the new facility will replace two antiquated and overcrowded dispatch centers with an efficient, state-of-the-art facility. It will address the need for improved communication between emergency response agencies. We broke ground last October, and the project’s estimated completion date is November of this year. 

Side note: I know I’m a little early, but National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week is April 15-19 this year. It’s a chance to express our thanks and appreciation for dispatchers. I know I’m extremely grateful for everything they do. And I hope you are too.   


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