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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
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December 24, 2014     Feather River Bulletin
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December 24, 2014
 

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Bulletin, Record, Progressive, Reporter Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014 7B | II James Wilson Staff Writer jwilson@plumasnews.com "911, what's your emergency?" This question, which most will hear only a handful of times in their life ff lucky, is uttered many times a day by the nine dispatchers at the Plumas County Sheriff's Office in Quincy. "You never know, when that phone rings, what you're going to get," explained operator Jeanette Childress. The team of operators handles emergency calls for all of Plumas County, and is available 24 hours a day. This highly trained team is the first response to emergencies in the county, but is often loaded down with non-emergency calls. During the storm that blanketed much of Plumas County in snow earlier this month, the 911 dispatchers fielded 120 calls, many of which were from callers reporting the power was out. On Tuesday, Dec. 16, operators Childress and Cassie Cooper, along with Communications Supervisor Becky Grant, sat down with Feather Publishing and explained some of the unique challenges they face as dispatch operators in Plumas County. The small team fields calls and dispatches to multiple Cassie Cooper (left) and Jeanette Childress, 911 dispatchers, answer calls in the communications room at the Plumas County Sheriff's Office in Quincy on Dec. 16. Plumas County's dispatchers field calls to multiple agencies in the county, but are often bogged down with non-emergency calls. Photo by James Wilson agencies in the county, course. Additionally, each including 20 fire dispatcher is required to departments, the sheriffs complete 24 hours of office, California Highway training each year. Most of Patrol, Forest Service, the the training, pointed out road department, Childress, comes on the job. environmental health, The emergencies reported probation and all the vary throughout the year. hospitals and ambulances. According to Grant, summer The operators receive is the busiest time of year. certification after Lately, the majority of calls completing the California have been medical related. Peace Officer Standards and "Our demographics have Training, a three-week gone from more blue collar Cal Fire offers home heating safety tips In winter storm season, Cal Improper use of or poorly protecting your home, but Fire is reminding residents maintained heating most importantly your life. If to take steps to heat their equipment is one of the the heat is provided using homes safely. While the leading causes of home fires fossil fuels, there should be a cooler weather, rain and and home fire deaths across working carbon monoxide snow are welcome conditions the country. Half of home alarm to help alert residents during a time of severe heating equipment fires are if a malfunction in their drought in California, it also reported during the months heating equipment occurs. means that many will need to of December, January andAnd as always, make sure turn on home heating February. "Home fires you have working smoke sources to keep warm caused by negligent use of alarms throughout the indoors. Cal Fire is~ ,~ .~. heating equipment is easily home." .~. ......... encouraging everyone to bepreventable," said State Fire With just a few simple safe with heating their Marshal Tonya Hoover, Calsafety steps, residents can homes, as this is the time of Fire Office of the State Fire prevent most heating-related year fire departments across Marshal. fires from happening. the nation see an increase in "Taking the time to checkFor more information on home fires due to dangerous your heating equipment and safe home heating visit the heating equipment or unsafe maintaining it correctly Cal Fire website at practices, could make the difference in fire.ca.gov. to retirement community," said Grant. "So our calls have gotten to be more medical calls and less domestic." The types of calls vary, though. Sometimes dispatchers receive calls that stick with them well after they clock out. "I had a call about a stabbing in Portola that ended up being a homicide," recalled Childress. "I was in here by myself and the suspect fled. So that was a continuing call." "Any time we have a weapon involved, everything is more heightened," added Cooper. Both Childress and Cooper said theyfind themselves personally invested in their calls. They take the initial calls, but once their shift ends, they won't know what happened until sometimes a day or two later. "The hard part of the dispatching side of it is we get the initial call, butwe don't always get the end story all the time," said Cooper. In a 2012 study published by the Journal of Traumatic Stress, results suggested that 911 operators suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Cooper added that the average career length for a dispatcher is just seven years. "I think there's certain people that can do this job and certain people that can't," said Cooper. "That's why we have such a hard time finding people." On the flip side, dispatchers often receive calls bordering on what most would view as ridiculous. Cooper relayed an example of someone who called 911 looking to return a rented DVD. "I had a lady call 911 because she couldn't find a Redbox," Cooper recalled. "I'm not joking. She was serious. She asked, 'What am I going to do? I have to get this movie back!'" While the call wasn't an emergency, the caller viewed it as one. "To these people, that is an emergency to them. She legitimately thought that was an emergency," explained Childress. "People just need to think about their problem before they call 911. Is it really a true emergency?" Those wishing to report a non-emergency should call the sheriffs office at 283-6300. The phone number is located on the first page of the Plumas-Lassen Connection, the phone book produced by Feather Publishing. Another step residents can take to alleviate some of the burden of the 911 dispatchers is to register for the Code Red Emergency Alert System. The system calls residents at a rate of 1,000 calls per minute, alerting those registered of fires, chemical spills, evacuations, lockdowns, natural disasters and other emergencies. To sign up for Code Red, go to countyofplumas.com, click on the sheriff-coroner department, and follow the links. t i