911 dispatchers: The heroes behind the scenes

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – 911 dispatchers and operators are often the first point of contact in emergency situations, literally serving as a lifeline in many cases. The week of April 15 through April 19 is National Telecommunicators Week.

It’s a time to honor those who save lives behind the scenes.

The first voice you hear on the other line of a 911 call is the dispatcher.

They’re the model for multi-tasking, guiding you through a tragedy in real-time while also providing first responders with critical information they need to know before getting to the scene.

“Their worst day is our everyday. And our every day is there for them,” said Lowndes County dispatcher Latonya Malone.

She has been answering calls to save lives for 17 years.

But it’s a call she received six months ago that she will never forget. She helped locate a six-year-old girl whose mother had a sudden stroke behind the wheel of the car.

“I understand that your mom is not talking to you right now, but I want to be that listening ear for you. I want to be that person that understands what you’re going through. And I’m going to talk you through the steps that I need you to do to help save your mom,” said Malone.

Cindy Lawrence is the Lowndes County Emergency Management Director.

“This is the first call that a citizen will have to get a response agency to respond to their incident,” said Lawrence.

Lawrence believes it takes a special type of person to serve their community as a dispatcher.

“You need good qualified, dedicated, those who are concerned and caring for the community to exhibit that emotional toll when people are calling. They can calm the voice and they can talk to the caller. Get the information they need to send the respondent to the location,” said Lawrence.

Calming fears or tempers, getting responders to what could be a dangerous situation. These are part of the dispatchers’ everyday job.

What’s often not a part of the job is knowing the outcome of the incident after responders arrive.

Because they have to move on and answer the next call.

“It was emotional. I’m not going to lie because you don’t get that closure,” said Malone.

Luckily, Malone was able to find closure for a story that could have had a much different ending.

“And I also was able to meet her and her mom. So, that was amazing. I loved it,” said Malone.

She reminds people that help is just a phone call away.

“Don’t be afraid to call. You can be upset. We have a calming voice to calm the situation down so we can get you the help that you need,” said Malone.

Malone was awarded Lowndes County Dispatcher of the Year for 2024.

For 24/7 news and updates, follow us on Facebook and X

Categories: Featured, Local News