(Sheridan, Wyo.) — When you call 911, you are most likely alarmed. You might be hurt, you might be in danger and you definitely need help. But that voice on the other end of the line? That person is calm. He or she is there to help, and to keep you as safe as possible. He will talk you through what may be the biggest challenge you have ever faced, so you don't have to do it alone. "Definitely the most difficult part of our job is the stress," City of Sheridan Communications Officer Dan Johnson said. "When you get a call of a screaming mother with a choking child, it is pretty hard to just shrug that off. But in the moment, it is our responsibility to be the calm voice that they need in their time of emergency." April 10-16 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week
, and a chance to say thank you to our local
These guys, these communications officers, work around the clock in
Sheridan answering calls from the public, calls from Sheridan Police
officers, Sheridan County Sheriff's deputies, Rocky Mountain Ambulance and
the rural fire districts. They are trained in emergency medical
dispatching, which means they can explain how to deal with a seizure, how
to perform CPR and how to stop bleeding.
They will ask you general "yes" or "no" questions, like, "Are you safe?"
and listen for background noises, in case the you can't describe the
situation you are in for your own safety.
The city's communications officers work in 6 a.m.-6 p.m. and 6 p.m.-6 a.m.
shifts, with "floaters" covering noon to midnight shifts as needed.
The communications officers are Kim Madden, Cynthia Shepherd-Godwin,
Dominic Cote, Darin Fitzpatrick, Kat Hersman, Kellen Phillips, Dan Johnson,
Meagan Phillips, Branden Biebel and Becca Nelson. Rachel Depew, Anna
Riegler, Cadence Hilius, Sarah Benavidez and Nate Dygon of the
Administrative Bureau are also fully trained Communications Officers and
fill in when called upon.
[image: Inline image 1]
*Feature photo: Communications officers Dan Johnson, left, and Darin
Fitzpatrick, right, take calls on Wednesday. Above: Fitzpatrick, left,
and Sarah Benavidez in the dispatch room at the Sheridan Police Department.
/ Pitchengine Communities photos*
The city has mental health services in place for the officers—Sheridan
Police Lt. Tom Ringley said the whole department is debriefed after
significant incidents like murders and other crimes.
But often, the dispatchers themselves say they reach out to each other and
to their direct supervisors if they need to talk through a call once it is
"A lot of times we will debrief after a call. When a call is over for us,
we have everyone heading that way to help them, and we will talk to each
other and make sure that we are ok, that we are going to be alright,"
Sometimes calls have a happy resolution. Sometimes they don't. And
sometimes the dispatchers don't want to know the resolution. It is better
if they move on, so they can be prepared for the next call, which will
likely demand their full attention and skill.
"They are absolutely crucial. All the calls received by the Sheridan Police
Department, both 911 and regular land line, are coming through dispatch.
They are every bit as important as the police officers to the team,"
The communications officers in Sheridan County field between 1,000 and
1,000 calls for service a month, and there is a human life on the end of
each of those calls.
And ultimately, there is nothing we at Dally could say to sum up that
But if your kid calls 911 by accident, just tell them instead of hanging
up. They won't be mad. They will be glad you are safe.