Loudon 911 trains to find kids

By Natalie Neysa Alund knoxnews.com
LOUDON —For three hours, a Loudon couple could not locate their 10-year-old son.

He had disappeared from their home. So they frantically dialed 911.

What does he look like? Where did you last see him?

Those were just a couple of preliminary questions the trained dispatchers asked the boy's family before the hunt began last July.

Thankfully, the boy was found about an hour after the search started. Loudon County E-911 Director Jennifer Estes

said the boy had gotten on a church bus and gone to Bible school without telling his parents.

But that's not always the case. So, in an effort to make sure dispatchers and first responders are more than prepared to handle incidents, the Loudon County E-911 has teamed up with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Missing Kids and 9-1-1 Readiness Project. It's a collaboration — at no cost to counties — to provide training and resources

from leading organizations addressing missing and exploited children.

Loudon E-911 is the first center statewide to partner with NCMEC, Estes said.

'Thank you for being a leader in your community, state and the nation,' NCMEC's 911 initiative Program Manager Rachel Johnston wrote in an e-mail to Estes. 'We appreciate all you do for children.'

Dispatchers are required to undergo 45 hours of training for missing children calls each year, according to the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board. They must also complete 10 hours of additional related training every two years.

But when centers partner with NCMEC, Estes said they obtain further skills and resources needed to respond to calls pertaining to missing and exploited children.

For example, Estes said, in addition to the basic questions dispatchers are trained to ask, they learn to inquire if the

child has a social media page, like Facebook, or if they have a cell phone.

Loudon's 15 full-time and six part-time dispatchers, who handle an average of 67,000 calls each year, recently completed all the necessary training to become a call center partner.

'Time is of the essence during calls regarding missing or exploited children. … Each dispatcher has made the commitment to go above and beyond to ensure the children of our community remain safe,' Estes said.

For more information on the program, visit http://www.missingkids.com/911.