We hear about them and we hear from them, but we seldom see them. However, any police officer would tell you that we can't do without them.

They are dispatchers - the unseen protectors of the public."Without dispatchers we simply could not function," said Lt. Craig Turner, Utah County sheriff's patrol division commander.

Turner said that because most people have never had to deal with a dispatcher, they don't realize the important role dispatchers play. Police are often given much of the credit that should go to dispatchers.

Often it's quick and accurate information from the dispatcher that allows an officer to respond quickly. And medical advice given by dispatchers over the telephone saves dozens of lives every year. Turner said dispatchers contribute to almost every call for medical assistance.

"Usually by the time the emergency personnel arrive something has already been done to save the person's life," he said.

Dispatchers are also the ones who coordinate activity between officers and agencies. They are trained to calm down hysterical callers.

"Being a dispatcher is more than just taking complaints from citizens, it's knowing how to manage an emergency situation and knowing how to deal with someone who needs help," Turner said.

Members of the public are not the only ones who depend on dispatchers. A police officer's safety depends on the details a dispatcher passes on. When taking a call, dispatchers ask questions that help them evaluate the seriousness of the situation and the possible danger it might present to responding officers.

Last week was National Telecommunicators Week and Wednesday the more than 90 dispatchers throughout the county celebrated by holding an awards banquet at Brigham Young University. Hopefully, Turner said, the celebration will remind people of how important dispatchers are.

"I hope it reminds people not to take dispatchers for granted."