This year, and at this time, we are all striving to cope with the latest effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — none more so than those on the frontlines. But there is one group, among the doctors, nurses, firefighters and police whose job it is to keep us safe, that is seldom mentioned. They are the public safety telecommunicators who are the first line of defense and communication during a disaster and their role has never been more critical than during this COVID-19 pandemic. Celebrating them and the service they perform has never been more fitting than during this year’s National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, April 12-18.

The Winnebago County 911 Emergency Telephone System Board would like to take this opportunity to commend our telecommunicators for their dedication to the wellbeing and safety of this community and their fellow workers during this very trying time. None of us is immune to this “attack” on our health and safety, but while many are staying home and/or teleworking to get what little protection they can from this virus, our telecommunicators are going to work every day. They are continuing to ensure that the calls for help are answered and that the responders have the information they need to respond appropriately.

Whether it is in the city or in Winnebago County, the telecommunicators are the first people to interact with the public. They are the ones who provide the reassurance to those in trouble that help is on the way. While keeping the caller on the line until help arrives, they work with the caller to initiate CPR or provide whatever other immediate instruction that will calm the situation and keep everyone as safe as possible until help can get there. They are truly the first first responders in a long line of defense.

We are making every effort to keep our 911 telecommunicators safe and secure to ensure that they can continue to help our shared communities weather the pandemic attacking our health, safety and peace of mind. They are true professionals dedicated to helping the citizens of Winnebago County.

It is our wish that all of us will come around on the other side of this disaster healthy and stronger than we were before. And we want to express our appreciation to one of the many groups of professionals who are working to help us do so — our 911 personnel. All of us in the public safety community appreciate their commitment to their profession and the citizens we serve.

Winnebago County ETSB members: board Chairman Derek Bergsten, Barb Berman, Don Carlson, Gary Caruana, Joel Hallstrom, Chuck Lynde, Rob Martin, Don Shoevlin, Todd Stockburger and Adam Truman.

— Derek Bergsten, fire chief, Rockford Fire Department