By Heather Darata
There are many 911 calls that Tisha Dodd will never forget.
Dodd, a telecommunicator at Isabella County Central Dispatch, remembers one call in particular that would have been horrific for a lesser trained person. Dodd was on duty when a woman called dispatch to report a dead body. When she heard the deceased was Alana Muir, one of her co-workers and a friend, she did what she was trained to do: she kept calm, helped the caller stay calm and notified the proper authorities. It wasn’t until later that Dodd really had a chance to let it sink in when Muir died roughly four years ago.
Like other 911 operators, Dodd kept her cool because that’s what emergency dispatchers do. “You have to deal with it, and then figure it out later,” Dodd said. Dodd and other emergency telecommunicators take serious calls – and some not so dire – as part of their daily lives. Dodd handled the traffic accident call on U.S. 127 during the winter during a whiteout snow storm that prompted Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski to close the highway between Mt. Pleasant and Shepherd. Coping with the stress is just part of the job to Dodd and other 911 dispatchers. “You train,” she said. “You have to train for everything because you never know what’s going to happen.” She’s also had her share of non-emergencies, such as questions about what time fireworks start, inquiries about road conditions and what days area municipalities are holding Trick or Treat hours. Unfortunately, Dodd said, she has not yet achieved her dream of helping to deliver a baby.
As emergency dispatchers all over central Michigan have been taking endless calls regarding storms, flooding and other weather-related incidents this week, they and their peers across the United States are celebrating National Telecommunicator Week. At Isabella County Central Dispatch on Tuesday, a plastic Batmobile was parked on the floor between work stations. A Spiderman cutout was on display outside the work area, and Superhero phrases and T-shirts were also within eyeshot of the people they were put there to honor. This year’s National Telecommunicator Week theme at Isabella County is “Superheroes and Villains.” Dodd planned on dressing up as Underdog after her shift ended. Assistant Dispatch Director Rob Jerman said Isabella County has celebrated the week for several years as a way to say thank you to the people who help others every day.
National Telecommunicator Week started in California in the 1980s, where a county sheriff wanted to pay tribute to the people who are the glue that holds together public safety. It started being recognized in the early 1990s elsewhere, and was recognized by the United States Congress in 1995 as a way to honor the unsung heroes of public safety.