One Call At A Time

Payson dispatchers take tragic, ridiculous both in stride

Advertisement

It was 1992, and a dispatcher asked a caller, "What is the nature of your emergency?"

It was the very first 911 call she had answered in Payson.

photo

Amanda Cassuto and her fellow dispatchers handle radio traffic for the Payson Police Department and five fire departments.

The emergency call was from a girl who called 911 to complain that her brother would not give her Popsicles.

The Payson Police dispatchers have come a long way since that first call, though Dispatcher Della Bradley said it might have seemed like an emergency for the girl.

Payson Police Dispatcher Irma Bramlet calls the job she and her colleagues do "a lot of multitasking."

She said there is a lot more to the job than picking up the phone and saying, "911, what is the nature of your emergency?"

The Payson Police dispatchers handle radio traffic for police and fire, and they act as the dispatch center for five fire departments.

They also assist on records and warrants entries.

Bradley said there were 1,000 911 calls in the month of June at the PPD. Normally, the dispatchers log between 600 to 800 calls a month.

Bramlet said dispatchers are on the job 24 hours, seven days a week, and added they handle calls for other departments after hours.

Bradley said a lot of people call 911 to report road closures, and mentioned they received close to 200 calls during the March 2006 snowstorm.

Bramlet said she thinks there is a lot of misuse of people calling 911. At least 40 percent of the calls are not emergencies.

She mentioned a man who called 911 repeatedly to report that his stepson was standing in front of his wife's employer and wouldn't leave. He was afraid his wife would get in trouble.

"He must have called us four times," she said.

Bradley said part of the problem could be the difficulty in finding the non-emergency number.

(The non-emergency number for the Payson Police Department is (928) 474-5177.)

Bradley said one of the most humorous calls she received was from a person who wanted to know what the rates were for the London Bridge. She said this was before the bridge was moved to Lake Havasu.

Bramlet said there are difficult times, too. She remembers how hard it was when former Police Chief David Wilson was killed in the early 1990s.

The emergency calls kept coming in, and a lot of them seemed insignificant in comparison to Wilson's death.

"The phones don't stop ringing," she said.

She said police dispatchers have to detach themselves from the calls they receive in order to help the person calling with the emergency.

A dispatcher cannot let him or herself go until after the call is complete.

The call that really got to Bramlet was when a lady called to report her husband had just committed suicide in front of her.

She had fielded other suicide calls, but this one seemed a little different.

"It was just the tone of her voice in describing it," she said. She remembered the woman apologizing for having to vomit. She said she could hear the woman getting sick on the phone.

"I wanted to keep her on the phone until someone got there," she said, but when the call was completed she had to walk outside.

Bramlet said new police dispatchers are amazed at some of the calls they receive, like people asking when their power will be restored during an outage.

"And 911 is not the number to call for road conditions," she said.

There are times when two emergency calls come in at about the same time. Dispatchers have to prioritize.

Bradley said there are cases where dispatchers will know the caller or victim because it is a small town.

"Sometimes it's a plus," she said, because often a dispatcher will know emergency contact numbers.

"You kind of handle it the same way you handle everything else," she said.

-- To reach Michael Maresh call 474-5251 ext. 112 or e-mail mmaresh@payson.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.