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Marshall County Dispatchers are appreciated

Posted on Thursday, October 12, 2023 at 10:13 am

By Patty Blackburn

911 dispatchers are a major part of public safety and are not recognized enough for the tasks that are demanded of them. The dispatcher is the person on the other end of the phone whom the caller depends on to get help and no matter what the situation happens to be, dispatchers have to stay focused and calm. When callers are very emotional, dispatchers have to be stern in order to understand the emergency situation.

The major role of the dispatcher is to serve as the main voice between the 911 caller and the first responders such as the city police department, the sheriff’s department, emergency medical services and the fire department. Their duty is to assess the caller’s needs then dispatch the appropriate responder to the scene. They answer calls for domestic violence, vehicle accidents, burglaries, mental health crises, even noises in the attic, and snakes in the house. They also enter warrants, answer animal control calls, and answer calls from the general public. In 2022, 75,942 phone calls were answered and 11,238 of these were 911 calls. Each shift is constantly busy and more 911 calls will be made since Marshall County is becoming more populated.

Multi-tasking is the dispatchers’ specialty. As they take calls, they are trained to be extremely observant. It is pertinent that they remember the caller’s name, enter data received, and read maps within a moment’s notice. Each dispatcher has six computer screens to monitor. All information is entered into a computer-aided dispatch (CAD), which displays the dispatch times and ID numbers for the involved dispatchers and officers. This is information that is critical and necessary for the responders in order to be aware of the situation at hand.

Dispatchers sit and stare at computer screens and talk to people they never see. They gather information from frightened callers who cannot always remember their location, where they live, and often cannot remember their name – yet they are required to provide information to the responders .

All 911 calls are investigated even if the caller stays on the line and states the call
was a pocket dial or their child was playing with the phone, etc. An officer will always go to the location where the call was made. When a mistaken 911 call is made, the caller will not be in trouble but it is very helpful if the caller just tells the dispatcher they did not mean to call 911 instead of hanging up.

One problem that is encountered with 911 calls is the fact that the responder cannot locate the scene. In certain areas, a GPS is not always accurate and sends the responders to the wrong location – and minutes count. The dispatcher will inform the caller to turn on the porch light or stand in the door to be easily noticed. Reflective numbers on mailboxes are also very helpful in these situations. If interested, South Marshall Fire Department sells the reflective address numbers for $20 as a fundraiser. A volunteer fireman will even install the sign on the mailbox if requested. You can contact Matt Fox- Chief, South Marshall Fire Department by email: phone/text 931-625-1093. The Marshall County EMA office located at 230 College Street, Room 100 (in the Hardison School building) has the order forms; 931-359-5810.

In Marshall County, 13 dispatchers and one director are employed with Marshall County 911. There are four shifts and the dispatchers work 12 hour shifts, 5:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. They answer to a nine member 911 Board who are appointed by the county mayor and confirmed by the county commission. Photos of the dispatchers and director are included in this article.

To become a dispatcher, a 40 hour course is required along with six months of in house training before being hired. At this time, there is one opening for a 911 dispatcher. If interested, go through Indeed to apply.

Marshall County 911 Director, Joey King, is very proud of the 911 dispatchers that is under his supervision. King stated, “It takes a special person to do this job. All Marshall County dispatchers are dedicated and hard working – they are actually the first responders.”

A special thank-you to Director King and to the dispatchers, Kevin McCord, Eleni Giles, Rainbow Thompson, June Dickson, Cecilia Turner, Shawna Mullis, Kathy Leonard, Julie Batte, Matthew Hoffman, Drew Harris, Robin Malinak, Jonah Darnell, and Mae McCord who do their best to help those in need during emergency situations. Marshall County is honored to have you and thanks you for your commitment and dedicated service.