Dispatchers Can Mean Difference Between Life, Death

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They work in a cave-like atmosphere, surrounded by high-tech equipment, ringing telephones, radio calls, and during the day, people moving in and out of their space. They must remain calm and focused on a multitude of communications.

They are the dispatchers' office of the Gila County Sheriff's Department. It is a dispatcher who answers your telephone call to the sheriff's office; handles every 911 call from country residents; and works with sheriff's deputies, checking records and entering information into a nationwide computer system, and helping keep the men and women in the field safe.

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Working in low lit, close quarters the dispatchers for the Gila County Sheriff's Office in Payson are the life line between the community, the law enforcement officers and several fire departments. On duty Monday morning were (from left) Bill Daily, Administrative Manager and former Dispatch Supervisor Trudy Cory, and Krista Garcia.

And this is the week we honor them. It is National Telecommunicators Week.

There are nine dispatchers working at the Payson office of the sheriff's department, plus the immediate past supervisor, Trudy Cory, also helps when needed.

The GCSO dispatchers include: Bill Daily, senior dispatcher, who has been with the group for five years and in law enforcement for about 30 years; Fritz Day; Krista Garcia; Lisa Hicks; Beth Lacey; Margaret Mansoor; Chad Peters; and Dawn Thorp. The department's newest dispatcher, Deborah Hunsaker, is still in training;

Cory has been with the sheriff's department for 7-1/2 years, and until last month was the dispatch supervisor. She became the Payson administrative manager in March.

Having the most history with dispatch operations, Cory talked about the challenges and rewards of the work.

"The biggest challenge is the multi-tasking. We handle 911 calls, all the other phone calls to the sheriff's office, all the radio traffic ... It's amazing how complex it is," she said.

The dispatchers also are responsible for the nationwide computer checks and entries.

The GCSO dispatches for four Rim country fire departments as well: Christopher-Kohl's, Tonto Basin, Tonto Village and Pleasant Valley (Young).

As for the biggest reward of the business, Cory said, "Being able to help people; getting medical help to them as fast as we can."

Asked what the one thing all dispatchers need to have, Cory said, "They have to have compassion for other people to do this job."

The dispatchers get eight weeks of on-the-job training, then work with other dispatchers for at least six months before they are allowed to work a shift alone, but because the GCSO tries to have two people on every dispatch shift, working alone is the exception rather than the rule.

But there is other training that helps, Cory said, though it's not a requirement, "Being a parent is some of the best training a dispatcher can have. You're keeping track of everyone."

And because the dispatchers are so involved in their work, there are many memorable incidents for all of them.

For Bill Daily it involved a shaken baby.

"The most memorable things are not always happy endings. Probably, for me, the most memorable thing was a shaken baby incident in Pine, sometime in 2000. I tried to give the person who was calling instructions on CPR over the phone. Ultimately, the baby died and the man (responsible) was convicted of manslaughter," Daily said.

"Our dispatchers deserve a lot of credit, they work very hard and it can be very stressful at times. It's a different way of life. You get so immersed in it. We have to work to keep our lives balanced with other things," Cory said.

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