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NEWS STORIES

Honoring 911 DispatchersSubmitted: 04/13/2012
Story By Lex Gray

WAUSAU - Imagine you're in a car crash - you pull out your cell phone and call 9-1-1 and expect someone to answer.

The dispatcher is always there, but seldom remembered after the call.

That's why this week, emergency dispatchers around the country are being honored for their work.

The dispatch center at the State Patrol headquarters in Wausau covers 18 counties and handles about 41,000 calls per year.

For the seven dispatchers at the center, every day and every call can be a new challenge.

"When they call 911 or they call the emergency number, they're usually in distress, something bad is happening. They don't just call 911 for the fun of it. The nice part of it is to be able to talk with people and calm people down and figure out what their problems are and get them the help that they need," says Bert Nitzke, police communications supervisor for Wisconsin State Patrol's Northcentral region.

After especially tough calls, dispatchers get together with EMS, firefighters and police officers to talk through the scene.

That helps them manage stress, and there is a lighter side to what's typically a very serious job.

"You always gets some strange ones," Nitzke says. "I've had calls of naked pedestrians walking down the interstate. And, you know, the troopers ask, "Why are you walking down the interstate naked?" And they really have no reason, it's just a nice day and they wanted to take a walk."

Nitzke says when you call 911, you can get help faster by staying calm and remembering where you are.

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