In an emergency, dispatchers are the key link to getting a person the help they need right away.
Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee believes those women and men who answer such calls and serve the community in so many other ways day and night and all holidays included, are the unsung heroes of the community.
“They all do an outstanding job for us,” Massee said. “We couldn’t do our jobs without them.”
Mandy Ptak, who serves as director of the Baldwin County 911 Center, along with the sheriff were the recent guests at a meeting of the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners where Ptak provided government leaders some insight into what has been going on at the 911 center.
First, though, Commission Chairman Henry R. Craig expressed his appreciation for everything that the 911 dispatchers, as well as deputies and detectives, do to keep everyone as safe and be as helpful as possible to residents and visitors of Milledgeville and Baldwin County.
“I want to say from all the commissioners that we are very proud of those who provide for our public safety,” Baldwin County Commission Chairman Henry R. Craig told Sheriff Massee during a recent county commission meeting.
Massee said the Baldwin County 911 Center was “light years” away from where it began at the old sheriff’s office many years ago.
“We’ve still got old videos from the old building,” Massee said. “That was the warden’s house, and I think Mr. (Sammy) Hall has seen the videos when at … about 2 o’clock in the morning snakes fell out of the ceiling. And if you think that won’t disrupt some young ladies dispatching about 2 o’clock in the morning, let me tell you, that will get your attention.”
The longtime chief law enforcement officer of the county said the only person who worried more than the dispatchers was the deputy sheriff who thought the black snake was a cobra.
“And if we had him on video, you would see that it was really something,” Massee said jokingly.
Massee, who began his law enforcement career in 1971, said he was amazed at the transition and the many changes over the years when it comes to communications.
“The first GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) car that I got, the communication in it was marginal at best,” Massee said, “When I got elected sheriff, and Mr. Hall was on the board then, we partnered with Alltel and Alltel helped us start our 911 service. We are literally light years ahead of where we were.”
Many of the changes that have been made over the years in the 911 center are state-mandated.
Massee praised the outstanding job of Ptak, who has overseen the county’s 911 center for the past several years.
Ptak has worked with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office 911 Center for the past 21 years.
“She’s a lot different from a lot of the employees that you have for this reason: You get a lot of employees and they get stagnate. And they don’t get the degrees, and they don’t go to the training and don’t get the certifications that they need,” Massee said. “We’ve made it available, and Mandy Ptak has taken all the certifications.”
The sheriff said he didn’t realize how important certifications were until the county started applying for grant funds so upgrades to communications equipment and phones could be made.
“Her certifications are so strong that on three occasions when we’ve had tornados and issues have happened statewide, GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency) has called us and said, ‘We need to borrow her. She’s got to go (somewhere) and run an offsite center for us because we have tragedies going on,’” Massee said.
He praised Ptak’s dedication and her service to the county.
“She’s really done us a phenomenal job as director of our 911 center,” Massee said.
Ptak later updated commissioners about some of the more recent changes that have taken place at the 911 center.
“First, I’d like to say, we did fully implement a new computer-aided dispatch system at 911 when we went with the Motorola flex product,” Ptak said.
The old system, known as Interact, had been around since 2008. ‘
“It served its purpose and had a lot of history behind it,” Ptak recalled.
At one time, the telephone system was old and antiquated, she pointed out.
That since has been completely updated as well.
“So, we have brand new state-of-the-art next-generation 911 equipment,” Ptak said.
She then explained what next-generation 911 means.
“Location, location, location,” Ptak said. “If you can’t find a caller citizen, what good is it?”
Ptak said 911 technology and communications technology are always changing.
“And it’s always going to be in front of you,” she added.
Currently, everything is running efficiently and smoothly, Ptak said.
She said they will soon update the 911 center’s subscriber radios.
“It’s not the system itself; it’s just the subscriber radios,” Ptak said. “You have to look at it as a decade-long investment. Subscriber radios last for about 10 years before they need to be replaced, just like a computer, a car, or anything like those.”
Once the county makes that capital investment, Ptak said she believes the 911 center can continue to function well for the next several years before new equipment will be required again.
“This is an across-the-board thing that everybody is having to do,” Ptak said. “It’s not just Baldwin. And it’s not Motorola saying, ‘Hey Baldwin, we need your money and we need you to update your radio system. Everybody around us is having to do the same thing.”