Opinion: True first responders

Published 9:52 am Monday, May 1, 2023

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By NOAH WORTHAM | Staff Writer

Dispatcher Katie Cain was recently honored by her coworkers for her exemplary work and was recognized as Shelby County 9-1-1’s 2023 Telecommunicator of the Year. An award that she received in part thanks to her calm composure and handling of two crisis situations.

Cain was on the line when she received a call from a sergeant on March 22 that shots had been fired and two deputies were injured in North Shelby. Cain relied on her training and experience and quickly relayed information on the situation to her teammates and units in the field.

“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.

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.

“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’s handling of these two critical situations is not only deserving of the accolade she received from her peers, but is also an example of the incredible work our dispatchers do in Shelby County.

Our dispatchers are always at the ready to handle any number of emergency situations that could from a phone call.

“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.”

Like many of our first responders, a significant part of the burden of their work lies in the situations they have to handle each and every day. Some of us will have  worst day of our lives where we need emergency help, but our first responders have to live through many of these in the name of duty.

Loren Russell, deputy director for Shelby County 9-1-1, 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.”

We often give so much time and attention to our police officers and firefighters, and rightfully so, but our dispatchers also deserve praise for the tremendous burden they carry and the work they put forward in helping with the emergency services process.