DESOTO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - For the past 17 years, a sole dispatcher has been responsible for handling emergency calls for the six DeSoto Parish fire districts - including the City of Mansfield. But, fire chiefs across the parish are hoping this problem is solved soon.
“If you said you had one house fire, two car wrecks and EMS call going on in this parish, there’s still one dispatcher handling all of these,” said DeSoto Parish District 1 Fire Chief Rusty Canton. “Every second counts.”
From January 2018 through June 30, 2018, DeSoto fire crews were called to almost 2,700 incidents across the parish, with a grand total of over 6,300 units dispatched.
“The dispatchers are overloaded and it’s not saying they’re not capable of doing their job, it just means we want to help them help us, as well as the people of this parish,” said Canton.
Canton said DeSoto Parish’s population growth has played a major factor in why the fire districts are pushing to hire more dispatchers.
“The population of Stonewall has made their calls triple,” said Canton. “They went from around 300 runs to 1 thousand runs and we still have only one dispatcher.”
In the coming months, Canton hopes four additional dispatchers are hired, which he believes could further reduce response times for those needing emergency assistance.
“What we want to do is have more dispatchers to help our men and women go home safely and to help the people in the parish,” said Canton. “The dispatchers are technically the backbone.”
Canton said an additional four dispatchers would cost the fire districts $275,000 a year, a price he believes could save a life.