By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Karl Hatton, a communications supervisor for the Clallam County emergency dispatch center in Port Angeles, was selected over four other applicants to take over as interim manager of the Jefferson County emergency dispatch department after the resignation of Janet Silvus, who came to the agency in August 2010.
Hatton, 44, was given a six-month contract.
He said he hopes the agency's board of directors will make him permanent.
“We are trying each other out right now,” said Deborah Stinson, board president and Port Townsend city councilwoman.
“It seems like a great fit, but we have to wait and see,” she added.
Stinson and Hatton both said they expected the decision to be made in about three months.
If he is not offered the permanent position, it will take another three months to conduct a search.
“I hope in about three months, they will see the value I bring to the position,” Hatton said.
“Right now, I'm learning as much as I can and
trying to be as effective as I can.”
Hatton will be paid $5,833 per month, an amount that if it were an annual salary would add up to $69,996 a year, up from the $66,626 earned by his predecessor.
Hatton began March 11 and had a week's overlap with Silvus before taking full control of the agency.
“I am blessed to be in this position, to be getting paid and receiving benefits,” he said.
“I feel that I have a responsibility to provide as much value as possible.”
Hatton said the 9-1-1 process has changed since cellphones became ubiquitous.
Twenty years ago, an emergency call center would receive maybe one call about a wreck from a passer-by on a payphone. Today's dispatcher might get 100 calls about the same event.
This increases the call volume and causes some redundancy, but not so much that people shouldn't call, Hatton said.
“Every time there is a life safety issue or a property safety issue — where property is burning, being destroyed or being stolen — it is appropriate to call 9-1-1,” he said.
“If it's not so immediate, if you've just discovered that something has been stolen from your garage, you should call the business line.”
The business line is the main number for the Jefferson County sheriff, 360-385-3831.
Callers can enter 1 at the prompt for emergency dispatch.
“The calls go to the same people, but the different numbers helps us to prioritize,” Hatton said.
Hatton supervises nine dispatchers, two supervisors, an office manager and a small IT staff.
“You need someone who can multitask, who can juggle multiple priorities,” he said of the dispatchers.
“Things change quickly, and they have to adjust and be able to deal with the general stress of answering calls, and they are dealing with situations where they do not see an outcome.
“An officer on the scene will take care of the situation and its resolution, while a dispatcher never knows what happens,” he said.
“They just end the call and go on to another one.”
Customer service — both for the public and partner agencies — is a priority, Hatton said.
“Typically, some people who are employed by the government see themselves as 'dragons at the gate,' saying, 'If you want services, you need to go through me,'” he said.
“But we are not the dragons at the gate. We are here to expedite services for not just the public, but other user agencies.”
If Hatton does not take the permanent position, the time spent in Jefferson County will qualify as part of his education.
“It's an unusual situation,” he said. “I have a new job, but it has a safety net.
“My supervisors in Clallam County have been very supportive. They realize this brings the 9-1-1 community together,” Hatton added.
“When all of the agencies are strong, they operate with more efficiencies and a greater depth of knowledge.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.