911 Dispatch: Behind the scenes of an emergency lifeline

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – “911 what is the location of your emergency?”

Calm…yet vigilant…a 911 dispatcher is a person’s life-line during a crisis…a position that Sherry Larrner says is far from easy.

“You see…bad and good things every day,” said Larrner.

For the last 18 years, Larrner has been answering your calls to 911…calls that she says can sometimes be un-settling.

“We don’t always know the end result…we don’t always know if somebody lives, or dies or…it’s really difficult,” Larrner stated.

Dispatcher Joshua Hamiliton agrees.

He says 911 calls come in one after the other for a variety of different things.

After a call is answered and he’s helped someone, he’s always thinking about what could happen after the hang-up.

“It’s really hard especially those you know child cases things like that that involve pretty traumatic stuff and you don’t even know what happened,” said Hamilton.

The Ingham County Central Dispatch Center has “Call Takers” who receive emergency calls and “Dispatchers” who are responsible for notifying first responders of an incident.

Lance Langdon is the dispatch center’s Director and he says becoming a 911 dispatcher requires heavy training.

“The call taker position by itself take 4 months to train somebody to process the phone calls that come into the center…for a dispatcher the total training time is well over a year to 14 months,” Langdon stated.

Langdon says this job is more than just answering calls…it could save someone’s life and for dispatchers like Hamilton that role can be emotionally draining.

“I mean for one we work 12 hour shifts so you know even the slow days…that’s 12 hours of work that most people don’t see,” said Hamilton.

But even though it’s a tough position, both Hamilton and Larrner say they wouldn’t trade their job as a dispatcher for anything.

“It’s not always death and dying there’s positive things…delivering babies…I mean we had a brand new call taker and he delivered twins on New Year’s Eve,” said Larrner.

“I feel like I’m a partner to the officers, I don’t feel like I work for them…I work with them,” Hamilton stated.

Hoping to save someone’s life, one ring at a time.

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