Saving lives: Local 9-1-1 dispatcher honored after two crisis situations

Published 10:49 am Wednesday, April 26, 2023

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By NOAH WORTHAM | Staff Writer

The world around Shelby County 9-1-1 Dispatcher Katie Cain froze when she got a call from a sergeant that shots had been fired, and two deputies were injured on March 22.

“I don’t even remember anything that was going on around me, it was pretty much tunnel vision the whole time,” Cain said

Cain relied on her training and experience and quickly relayed information on the situation to her teammates and units in the field while maintaining a calm demeanor and composure.

“I later found out it only lasted under two minutes before everybody got on scene, but in that moment, it felt like it was eight hours long,” Cain said.

Thanks to Cain’s performance and the work of two other deputies, the injured first responders were escorted to safety.

“In the amount of time that I’ve been with law enforcement and public safety in Shelby County, we’ve never had that call come up,” said Loren Russell, deputy director for Shelby County 9-1-1.

Unfortunately, it was not the only call Cain received recently that was out of ordinary.

On April 2, a life-saving attempt turned into tragedy when a LifeSaver helicopter meant to rescue a hiker crashed en route to its destination.

“I had a deputy on scene of the landing zone, and then all of a sudden he just calls out to send everybody you have—that LifeSaver just crashed,” Cain said.

Two crew members were declared dead on the scene with the third rushed off to the hospital. Paramedic Amanda Daniels survived and was able to recover from her injuries.

“It’s hard to train for either one of those calls because you never know what you are going to do in the moment,” Cain said. “I did whatever I thought was necessary at that moment.”

Cain shared some of the difficulties that her coworkers and herself face as dispatchers while taking these calls.

“People don’t realize when you’re talking to the people that are calling in on 9-1-1— just hearing their voices of them screaming for help, that their loved one isn’t breathing anymore, and you are having to walk them through CPR or you have a little kid that’s choking,” she said. “A lot of people don’t understand what you have to hear.”

Russell echoed Cain’s thoughts on the work dispatchers do.

“We have absolutely delivered babies over the phone,” he said. “We have resuscitated people by giving CPR instructions and counting through the reps with people over the phone through CPR. It’s just unbelievable what they are able to accomplish. So far away from what it seems like the situation is based on distance, but they are right there with them just like they were in the room.”

Cain’s teammates and coworkers recently honored her outstanding work as a dispatcher and recognized her as Shelby County 911’s 2023 Telecommunicator of the Year.

“Katie absolutely deserves that award,” Russell said. “Not just from the two major incidents she had, but she’s also one of the employees who comes in, is always cheerful, chipper and happy to do the job. (She) is a true role model and leader on her team.”

Cain expressed her gratitude for her coworkers’ kind gesture.

“I definitely was not expecting that whatsoever,” she said. “It was nice to know that my peers thought of me that way, but it also wasn’t just me those two days with those events that happened, they were there as well.”

Russell emphasized the importance of the role Shelby County’s dispatchers play in emergency services.

“They answer the call, they are the voice of hope and the voice of reason on any given person’s worst day of their life,” he said. “They truly are the true first responders.”