Heber Springs Police Department

Dispatch Division

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Community Safety starts with dispatchers

By James Jackson 

The Sun Times 


For any manner of emergency, whether it be crime, medical, fire, or even a lost pet, dispatchers at the Heber Springs Police Department are usually the first to know and first to help.  It is their dedication and expertise that often determines what type of responder is needed to aid members of the community.  


While answering calls through the 911 system and the general police line is a big part of their job, dispatcher responsibilities go far beyond this basic service. 


"We do sit and answer phones, but we also manage dispatch for 13 fire departments, 6 EMS crews, 5 police departments, the Sheriff's Office on nights and weekends, and also civil matters," said Samantha Tharp of Heber Springs Dispatch.  "We do paperwork for every department.  Every warrant that is entered in our city or county, we have our hands on."


The activity in the dispatch office varies from day to day.  Some days, it is a nonstop endeavor.


"It really does depend on the day and a lot of times, the shift," she said.  "It's not a job where you can say 'on Monday's I'm going to be busy'.  You could be slow as slow can be on a Monday and then slammed on a Thursday." 


Tharp said court day is Tuesday, so that day can often be particularly busy.  Summers at the campgrounds and holiday weekends also often see an uptick in their workload. 


"This past year, though, I would say we were busier during the week with locals than we were with the tourists coming in to the lake or for holidays," she said.  


Tharp said the most common misconception some in the public have of their job is they sit watching television and playing on phones while waiting for the next call to come through the system.  


Providing 911 service quickly and accurately is the prime responsibility for dispatchers.  Ascertaining what help the caller needs can often be difficult, especially if the caller is in a heightened emotional and distressed state.


"They can be pretty difficult if you've got that emotional, irate person," she said.  "We go through a lot of training to help us figure out what people need in that state.  If you can get them to calm down enough to get information, that's great.  We do have the 911 map.  If you can call from a landline, that's even better because it can give us an exact location of where that person is and we can figure out who to send.  If the caller can at least get us an address, that will go a long way to getting them help as fast as possible.  An address will help us help them faster than continuing to tell us what's going on."


Although they do get a few calls from people using the 911 system for non-emergencies, it doesn't happen very often.


"We get more pocket dials than anything," she laughingly said.  "One good example of what is not a 911 call

that we get is people reporting controlled burns.  That's probably our number one call in 911 that doesn't need to come through there.  If anyone needs to report a controlled burn, we ask that they please use the regular phone number for the police department."


Tharp has been a dispatcher at the Heber Springs Police Department for three years, recently being promoted to supervisor.  For anyone interested in dispatching, she had a few words of advice.


"There are a lot of internet resources where people can learn about dispatching," she said.  "They can always call and talk to me too.  I'm here on weekdays from 8-4.  My phone is always on at the police department.  If it's a slower day, we can talk and do a tour or something like that."


If you would like any information on dispatching or the Heber Springs Police Department in general, give them a call at 501-362-3661.

The dispatcher is often the unsung professional of the emergency response team. These professionals, who gather essential information from callers and dispatch the appropriate first responders to the scene, must be able to take control of situations that may chaotic, heart-wrenching, stressful, confusing, and frenzied.

They must be organized, adept at multi-tasking, level-headed, and trustworthy. Their work within emergency response services often places them in the middle of life or death situations, so requirements and training for these positions are often stringent, rigorous and unwavering.

Just A Voice
You don't know who I am; to you I am just a voice.  It was me who took your frantic call, when you had no other choice .I spend many hours waiting, to help when you're in need. "Send help to me, please get them here is often what you plead.

To do my job is complex, but only a few tools are a must. Put your faith in me, I am the one that you can trust. My ears are a necessity; my mouth a mighty sword.  I must use my ears to listen, and then choreograph every word.  I am the protector of this land; I take pride in what I do. I am here to listen and do what is best for you.

The day you place a call to me, might be the worst day you ever had.  At least today you know, I too was feeling sad.  I take your problems home with me, I know that's not so good, But as you felt your tragedy it was by your side I stood.

I walked with you to the door, to let them into help, I guided you to safety, when all alone you felt.  It is not often we hear praise or even simple thanks, But the cookies and cards are plenty through police and fire ranks.

The day you placed your call, and I picked up the phone, I hope I made you feel safe and showed you you're not alone. Remember who I am, I am not just a voice. I am the 911 Dispatcher you called when you had no other choice.
Samantha Tharp
Dispatch Supervisor

Kayla Stake
Dispatcher Trainer
Joe Dows
Rushay Nowlin

Kathy Michealson

Senior Dispatch Trainer

Jessica Barton

Crystal Burrow