Editor’s note: This is the second half of the third report on emergency responders in Young County.
Dispatch is not a job that everyone is cut out for, and Young County Sheriff’s Department Dispatch Supervisor Teresa McGehee can tell pretty quickly whether or not someone she is training is going to be able to handle it. They get this look, “like a deer in the headlights.”
“Just in the last few months I’ve gone through three dispatchers,” said McGehee. “It’s not something everyone can do.”
When a 911 call is made, it emits a specific ring in the dispatch office and is answered with the same question each time.
“Young County 911, where is your emergency?”
The dispatcher’s command center includes three computer monitors, two phone receivers, a radio system, speakers, a keyboard, a mouse and countless flashing lights. On the screen to the left appears any information available about the 911 caller and a map depicting their location, if available.
Location is always the first question. That way, if a call gets disconnected responders can at least know where to go. This is followed by another set of questions that any elementary school English teacher should know well: Who, what, when, how, why and how many?
“And ‘are there weapons involved?’” said McGehee. “I’m not just talking about a gun or a knife. I’m talking about baseball bats, a fist; anything can be considered a weapon.”
While the dispatcher gets information from the caller, they must also determine what agencies to tone, or alert, and then punch buttons on the computer screen directly to the right in order to set the radio before leaning into a mic to dispatch the correct, necessary agencies. They do all of this while maintaining a calming dialogue to the person most likely panicking on the other end of the line.
“The best way I can describe a dispatcher is an octopus with eight arms,” said McGehee.
Dispatchers are also charged with the task of logging all of the agency’s response times and other critical information while monitoring six different channels of radio traffic in case an officer or responder somewhere gets injured or into trouble.
“This is all going on simultaneously,” said McGehee. “It’s all happening at once.”
Read the entire story in Saturday's Graham Leader.