Callers to the Baker County Sheriff’s Office will no longer be greeted by the voice of a dispatcher whose primary role is to field emergency 9-1-1 calls.

Since Tuesday, Jan. 26, calls have been picked up by an automated answering system. The change is designed to “better serve callers while prioritizing the most critical calls,” a Sheriff’s Department press release stated.

A recorded message welcomes callers to the Baker County Sheriff’s Office and provides instruction on how to make contact with the specific department that best meets the caller’s needs by selecting one of eight numbers 0 to 7, or dial 9 to repeat the message.

Callers also are directed to hang up and dial 9-1-1 for true emergencies.

The automated answering system will respond to calls to the Sheriff’s Office number, 541-523-6415, and to the Baker City Police number, 541-523-3644, which also has been answered by dispatchers for many years.

Ashley McClay, the Sheriff’s Department’s public information officer, said the new system is expected to increase efficiency as dispatcher’s answer 9-1-1 calls.

“This will keep dispatch focused on critical calls, she said.

For example, dispatchers have at times been called away from helping talk someone through how to perform CPR in a crisis situation to respond to a nonemergency call.

“Ultimately, we have probably needed this for quite some time,” McClay said. “And ultimately — in a critical situation — we’ll be giving better service.”

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