PETERSBURG, Va (WRIC)– This week, those who answer the call to send help your way when you need it the most are being honored for their service to the community.

It’s National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week and 8News got an inside look at Petersburg’s public safety dispatch operations.

Dispatchers said the pressure is always high and every call for help is a priority inside the emergency dispatch center.

This group is called first-first responders – known as the lifeline among peers when there’s an emergency.

Their response to a big explosion at the Curtis Bay medical waste services company last month is earning them lots of recognition.

“Our dispatchers did a very good job with the initial level of communication, ” Petersburg Interim Fire Chief, Brian Sturdivant said.

Police Chief William Rohde said dispatchers field about 100 calls per day.

The department is short 10 people, with three of the staffers currently in training.

“We take all kinds of calls. It might be a cat up in the tree to someone has been shot someone. Perhaps someone has been stabbed or someone’s husband is not breathing,” said Sharron Leverette.

Leverette said they never expected an explosion.

“We had a couple of calls that said one person was still missing. We didn’t know at first if we had casualties or fatalities. Once all the personnel got there, they found that person that was missing so that calmed the spirit for a little while,” Leverette said.

“It is scary. It is but you have to remember that you are here to help them and try to keep a calm spirit,” Leverette added.

Investigators said they are in phase two of the blast cleanup.

“The preliminary investigative reports points to the boiler, but the investigators have yet to gain access to the boiler room because of the contamination that has taken place,” Sturdivant said.

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