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Adrenalin junkies: Clay County dispatchers never know what they will face on duty

Monday, March 29, 2004

Linda Messmer photo

Clay County Dispatcher Cindy Judd reaches for a ringing phone while pulling up information on one of the 13 monitors at the Sheriff's Department last week. Dispatcher Jerry Jordan determines who to call next as he checks the department's communication national weather service list for the weather alert test.

Roll call --

Dispatchers, full time and part time, for the Clay County Sheriff's Department include Cindy Judd, Missy Gambill, Terri Cobia, Kevin Shonk, Jeff McCullough, Jerry Jordan, Rick Swearingen Jr., Beth Flora, Jerry Siddons, Joe Bennett and Josh Clarke.

Part one of two



You have to be an adrenalin junkie to be a law enforcement dispatcher. And you have to be able to do many things at once. Cindy Judd, dispatcher for the Clay County Sheriff's Dept., recently discussed her job.

"Once I was giving CPR instructions on one phone, taking another call from a hysterical person saying someone was breaking into their home, dispatching officers, firemen, ambulance and search and rescue to an accident and taking the address of a house fire," she said, her eyes widening and her voice raising as she spoke. It was evident her body was responding with a shot of adrenalin just in the telling of that hectic but sometimes normal day.

That's why there are usually two dispatchers on duty at the Sheriff's Department.

Jerry Jordan was working with Cindy the day The Times' reporter visited. A buzzer went off and Jerry got on the radio.

"Attention all fire departments, search and rescue. This is a test. Test only for tornado warning."

After the dispatchers notified everyone on the department communication national weather service list, the interview resumed.

Cindy, a nine-year veteran, said she doesn't particularly care for the adrenalin junkie term, but agreed that if you don't thrive on having an adrenalin rush you will not survive in this job.

"Every time 911 rings you tense up and your heart just races," she said.

Cindy said the dispatcher is the first one on the scene.

"We are the first responder and we can make a difference in how the incident plays out."

Jerry agreed.

"We have officers in hazardous situations," he said. "They have families we want to get them home to. We have to get them the best information as soon as possible for their safety."

The dispatcher's job entails answering citizens' questions, working monitors involving the Indiana Data and Communication System, the National Crime Information computer and the mapping system, monitoring the jail, the lobby and building entrances for security and taking and dispatching for 911 calls including fires. The Sheriff's Department reports fires for 12 fire departments.

A dispatcher must know how to instruct on the delivery of a baby over the phone, the Heimlich maneuver and how to talk to a person threatening suicide.

But a dispatcher never knows what's going to happen.

"When I trained for the job, that first week we never had a single fire run. Not a smoke alarm, not a grass fire, nothing," Cindy said. "The first week I was on my own, I swear, they tried to burn the county down.

"But I still love it. I absolutely love this job. It's always challenging, always different. Exciting. I think I'm doing something good. I think I'm helping people and I like that."

Sheriff Rob Carter voiced his respect for the dispatchers.

"We're here to help people," he said. "That's why they call us. The dispatching job requires a lot of knowledge, skill and training. It's a very stressful, high tech job. The dispatchers are the unsung heroes of this department."

Tomorrow: Brazil City Police dispatchers

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