Oct. 17--A Tulsa dispatcher and a former Jenks dispatcher shared their expertise on handling stressful situations at this year's Oklahoma Public Safety Conference.
With presentations titled "Dispatch Survival: We better not be out of coffee" and "Those oh so memorable moments in dispatch," their speeches touched on the humorous, tragic and enlightening in 45 minutes each on the last day of the "I am 911"-themed gathering at the Southern Hills Marriott hotel on Wednesday.
"Dispatch has always been my first love" in the law enforcement field, said Paul Rinkel, support division commander for the Jenks Police Department.
Rinkel started in dispatch as a high school junior in 1980 when dispatch technology was "just a red phone" and their training was "pick it up and say hello."
Now dispatchers, or telecommunicators, have to be computer technicians, he said while showing a picture of one dispatch station with a five-monitor setup.
"Without you, we die. Without you, nobody goes anywhere," Rinkel said before reminding dispatchers to be professional, understanding, compassionate and helpful to callers experiencing a gamut of emotions from hysteria to impatience and occasionally intoxication.
He then, in jest, suggested "fun dispatch activities" like counting the number traffic stops radioed in by a rookie police officer or how often your computer crashes in a shift.
A common thread in the profession is how to preserve one's mental health after fielding a highly emotional or traumatic call -- the ones "that make a horror movie look tame" and can "burn your soul," Rinkel said.
Both Rinkel and Kimberly Faxon, a dispatch supervisor for Tulsa's 911 Call Center, recommended dispatchers find someone to talk to.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is as real for dispatchers as it can be for first responders, Faxon said.
"Just because you didn't see the carnage doesn't mean it doesn't affect you," she told the group.
The presenters encouraged dispatchers to reach out to the agencies they work for and seek the counseling resources available to police officers and firefighters.
"You are part of the law enforcement, firefighter team -- an integral part of the team," Faxon said.
Amanda Bland 918-581-8413
Oklahoma dispatchers receive awards
Donna Rutherford, Tulsa 911 Call Center: Commended for her "quick action and calm demeanor" on March 15, Rutherford took a call that led to the arrest of Tyrone Woodfork in the beating death and sexual assault of Nancy Strait and brutal beating of Bob Strait two days earlier.
"It's a personal sense of accomplishment to help citizens day after day," she said in a news release. "It's one of the best feelings about this job -- I love everything about my job and I love what I do."
Johnny Pierce, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Troop F (Ardmore): He assisted in the rescue of a Kansas sex-trafficking victim who had texted a family member while en route to Texas.
Pierce instructed the family member on which questions to ask the victim, leading to police apprehension of the perpetrators.
Julie Thompson, Durant Police Department: She was named the conference's Everyday Hero after demonstrating "calmness and valor" during a call from 12-year-old Kendra St. Clair of Calera. St. Clair, while on the phone with Thompson, shot a burglar through a closet door during a home invasion and was given the Child Hero award.
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