More than a call

Published 8:47 am Thursday, April 25, 2024

Last week was National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, check back each day as we highlight the work dispatch does. 

BROOKHAVEN — Lincoln County E911 Dispatch handles more than answering phones and coordinating emergency services. They run tags and drivers license information during traffic stops, help officers who are serving warrants by making sure the warrants are still valid in a filing cabinet. There is always something happening.

Dispatcher Peyton Myers said it is like working in a room full of ADHD. Dispatcher Sara Beth Reeves said the work is more than taking calls. 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“You have to love this job, you have to love to help people and you have to want to do this. It isn’t just a regular job,” Reeves said. “I had a friend working and she told me to try it out. She had asked me for a while. I came in and did interviews with Vicki and Johnny Hall. They hired me. At first, I didn’t think I would make it.” 

Magee said Reeves pushed right along and now trains new employees. Dispatch training consists of helping new hires understand the basics, how to answer 911 calls and filling out the Computer Aided Dispatch reports. 

Dispatchers are trained to give medical attention and CPR instructions over the phone. The instructions likely saved the life of Paul Barnett, owner of Paul Barnett Nissan, after he suffered an accident with his plane last year. Paul’s wife Jennifer Barnett was walked through life saving aid for her husband by dispatchers. 

Smith said they constantly have to keep up with certifications and take classes. They are always learning something new. 

Reeves said the community takes priority and dispatchers must make sure they get the services they need. She added it is also equally important to make sure the first responders are able to make it home safely. 

“I love what I do. I love helping people,” Reeves said. “I learned everything from Abby Thornton.” 

Thornton is the most senior dispatcher on staff, Dispatch Supervisor Vicki Magee said. She added dispatchers feel confident when they have fellow dispatchers with experience like Thornton’s around them. 

Readers might be curious if dispatchers use a cheatsheet of the 10 codes or if they memorized them. Reeves said she has a cheat sheet of 10 codes just in case but for the most part they have gotten used to the codes over time. 

Smith explained working with Brookhaven Police Department she knows some officers prefer the 10 codes and others prefer plain speech. 

She moved to the Lincoln County E911 office right at the peak of the grass fires during the drought last fall after the County and City of Brookhaven combined dispatch services. Reeves was training her during that time.

Reid said the move added a lot to the dispatchers plate but they have handled the move well. 

“They took over a lot and have done very well. It has been stressful and they have done a great job,” Reid said. “They are what keeps everything going. I’m blessed to have such a great team.”