A good personality and a little research is all it took to land a job for Vicksburg native Linsey Tillotson at E-911.
“My mom was talking to someone about my personality, and they said, ‘She’d make a great dispatcher.’ I did some research on it, and it really seemed like something that would be up my alley. I knew I wanted to help someone, but not be so hands on,” Tillotson said.
The 29-year old has been a dispatcher at Vicksburg-Warren County E-911 for two years, and in those two years National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, which usually falls during the second week of April, has been a special time for all the dispatchers.
“It really shows appreciation for telecommunicators,” Tillotson said. “In the State of Mississippi, we aren’t considered first responders, and in my opinion and a lot of other people’s opinion we’re kinda the first responder. We respond before any other responder.”
This special week makes Tillotson and her colleagues feel valued for the hard work they do day in and day out.
“Not a lot of people think of dispatchers as first responders because it’s not as hectic as other first responders and it’s less hands on, but it’s still a very important job,” she said. “I like this week because it really makes us feel appreciated.”
Telecommunicators Week takes many weeks to coordinate and plan, and in previous celebrations the community rallied around the E-911 dispatchers with restaurant coupons, massage visits, gift cards and more.
“Normally, we go around to restaurants and a lot of local places and ask for donations for Telecommunicators Week,” Tillotson said. “Throughout the week, we raffle the items off and everybody gets something. It just makes us feel good.”
Telecommunicators Week, organized by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, was from April 12 to April 18 this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on the festivities.
“Since coronavirus, we haven’t been able to go out and ask for donations,” Tillotson said. “It’s hard to ask for things when everybody is hurting.”
Neighboring states like Alabama have chosen to postpone Telecommunicators Week.
In a statement released by National Public Safety, a Birmingham, Ala., a 911 supervisor said, “As far as I know it has been postponed, however myself and two other supervisors on my shift have decided to reward our personnel with gifts. Since we are on 12-hour shifts, we are doing something different each day we are at work.”
In Warren County, Tillotson said E-911 Center Director Shane Garrard also delayed the celebration, but celebration or not, Tillotson enjoys her job and always gives it her all.
“I love it,” she said. “You never know what you’re gonna get. It’s very exciting, and there are a few people that called back after something crazy has happened and told my supervisor I did a good job.”
In her two short years, Tillotson has made note of memorable phone calls. In one incident she was able to talk down a suicidal man over about an hour, but her most memorable moment was when her instructions to a young mom saved a baby’s life.
“I performed CPR over the phone with the mother,” Tillotson said, “and that was amazing. “It was my first time to take control over the situation. I feel like I saved a life over the phone in a way. It was definitely life changing.”
When given the choice, Tillotson would always choose the night shift.
“I love nights,” she said. “I also work at night as a bartender, so I’m a night owl.”
Tillotson said, believe it or not, nights are more calm than people realize.
She likes to look at the people on her shift, not only at E-911 but all the first responders, as a special unit.
“I work with firefighters and the police department, and we are all a team,” Tillotson said. “I’ve only heard they’re voices, but I’ve gotten really close with all of them just by talking to them on the radio.”