On the heels of residents voicing complaints to the city about loud noise in their neighborhoods, Gahanna City Council experienced the role of city dispatchers July 23.

On the heels of residents voicing complaints to the city about loud noise in their neighborhoods, Gahanna City Council experienced the role of city dispatchers July 23.

Gahanna Police Lt. Jeff Spence told council his department operates the call center 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"As we try to evaluate calls, some of the calls are geared more toward quality-of-life issues," he said.

Spence said the police department has two dispatchers on each shift, 24 hours a day. The staff includes 10 civilians.

He said 911 is handled by Gahanna police and calls are directed appropriately, including the Metropolitan Emergency Communications Center (MECC), if fire-related.

He said Gahanna listened to call traffic from Aurora, Colo., where a gunman opened fire at the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises last weekend.

"It shows you when things go wrong," he said. "Those incidents, while tragic, help us improve service delivery."

He said the Gahanna motto is, "Dispatchers save seconds; dispatchers save lives."

"The No. 1 concern is the safety of officers and citizens," Spence said.

He said the dispatchers are the most monitored employees of the city, with every conversation monitored and dated.

Spence said the 911 call average is 450 calls per month.

"Law enforcement is charged with answering 911," he said. "When necessary, we transfer calls to other services."

Types of calls include shootings, robbery/burglary in progress, mentally unstable persons, suicides and injury accidents.

Gahanna has two 911 lines, based on the size of the city.

On average, Spence said, calls are answered within three seconds to Gahanna 911.

"After 5 p.m., dispatchers are the city," he said. "Frequently, they work on 12-hour shifts and, when necessary, 16-hour shifts."

The dispatchers take 20,000 to 22,000 non-emergency calls per month.

Spence said all types of calls are received -- from wanting directions to Giant Eagle to "Why didn't my trash get picked up?" to "When will my electric come back on?"

Within 60 minutes of the June 29 storm, Gahanna dispatchers took 17 emergency calls, 65 non-emergency calls and 39 dispatched runs that were able to be logged.

Spence said the job requires multitasking.

Dispatcher communication center consoles show a 911 mapping system, GPS cruiser tracking and mapping, a severe weather monitor, a 911 call-taking system, a computer-aided dispatch system and a multichannel radio console with a minimum of nine channels monitored at all times.

In addition to the visual console, dispatchers track audible prompts, including 911, radio traffic and the police department lobby.

Council listened to a sample of the communication center's environment that simultaneously included police in pursuit, an injury accident and lobby traffic.

Council member Ryan Jolley asked if anything could enhance capabilities and what's the most difficult part of the job.

Six-year Gahanna dispatcher Kara Shriner said the department recently received the 911 mapping system and that's a great help to pinpoint 911 calls from cellphones. She said the most difficult part of the job is in multitasking and keeping calm and cool.

"You want to get people the help," she said.

If both dispatchers are on 911 calls, Shriner said, other emergency calls are routed to MECC or the Franklin County sheriff's office.

Council member Beryl Anderson asked how dispatchers "refresh" themselves.

"Sometimes you can't until the end of the shift," Shriner said.

Council president Brian Larick wanted to know the tenure of dispatchers.

Spence said Gahanna's longest-serving dispatcher has been with the city for 12 years, but the average employee has been with the department for six years.

Council member Brandon Wright expressed concerns about the volume of non-emergency calls.

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said she doesn't believe the city is big enough to staff another shift for a non-emergency call center.

Council member Karen Angelou and she's so happy the city has actual people answering calls.

Police Chief Dennis Murphy said he's proud of the entire department.