Each year, during the second week of April, the telecommunications personnel in the public safety community, are honored. This week-long event is a time to celebrate and thank those who dedicate their lives to serving the public in the 911 communications field. It is a set aside so everyone can be made aware of these professionals’ hard work and dedication to the community.
Madison Parish E-911 Director Cynthia Machen said it is important to say thank you to the hard-working men and women in the telecommunications field.
“Madison Parish 911 has a phenomenal group of people who man the Madison Parish 911 Center on a 24/7 basis and deserve our thanks during Public Safety Telecommunicator’s Week,” Machen said. “All six 911 Dispatchers are certified sworn Madison Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies who work 12-hour shifts (6 a.m. to 6 p.m. day shift and 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. night shift).”
Machen has served as director since 1999 and is a Certified Telecommunicator and Certified Telecommunicator Instructor. She is also certified in Fire Communications, Law Enforcement Communications and Disaster Communications. Machen steps in as a dispatcher when needed.
Barbara Whitney serves as the Dispatch Supervisor and was also promoted in 2020 to Assistant Warden in the Madison Parish Jail under Warden Jarrett Brooks.
Lawanda Guy Young, Patricia Wilhite Hendrix, Tiffany Levi and Samantha Olivoe are the other full-time 911 dispatchers, with Olivoe coming on board in 2020. Kiarra Oliver is the current part-time 911 dispatcher, who came on board in January 2021.
“We lost an awesome, dedicated 911 dispatcher to retirement in 2020,” Machen said. “Lottie McCoy Williams had been with Madison Parish 911 for many years and had been in law enforcement/public safety her entire adult life. Several MPSO patrol deputies frequently step in as 911 dispatchers when needed during busy/peak times and their hard work is appreciated as well.”
“It seems so appropriate that during this year’s Public Safety Telecommunicator’s Week (April 11-17, 2021), the Madison Parish 911 Center will be installing new, upgraded, top-of-the-line 911 equipment,” Machen said. “The upgraded system from Motorola/FLEX includes 911 dispatch, jail records management and mapping and is scheduled to be installed and online by the end of the week.”
Machen said the upgrade is made possible by funds that come into the parish from the renewal of a 911 millage and from monthly 911 surcharges collected through wireless carriers. This new 911 dispatch equipment will allow the Madison Parish 911 Center to be one of the top centers in north Louisiana and be able serve the public better with this new technology.
“The 911 dispatchers are often overlooked when it comes to recognition, but it should be known that they are the heartbeat of all of the other first responders,” Machen said “The dispatchers play a role behind the scenes and are rarely seen (only heard) by 911 callers during an emergency call. The truth is, the 911 dispatcher is the firs, first responder and all other first responders would not be able to do their jobs effectively if the dispatcher does not handle the emergency call quickly, properly and with 100-percent accuracy. All law enforcement, fire fighters and ambulance personnel rely on the 911 dispatcher to relay correct information to them when they are dispatched on 911 calls. The 911 dispatcher controls the emergency response from beginning to end, but are usually overlooked when all the thanks and appreciation are handed out to other first responders who were involved with the emergency. All of this has to be done in a calm, professional manner while the dispatcher is also answering other 911 calls, answering radio (fire, MPSO and police), answering administrative phone lines, calling tow trucks, coroner, Entergy, Wildlife & Fisheries and transferring calls to other agencies (Vicksburg 911, State Police). The 911 dispatcher definitely has to be a talented multi-tasker in order to complete an emergency call. Our Madison Parish 911 dispatchers all take on this challenge on a daily basis and perform their jobs behind the scenes very professionally with little to no recognition.”
Machen said this week, especially, is a great time to reach out and thank dispatchers and other behind-the-scenes first responders.
“We, here in Madison Parish, want to be sure that our 911 dispatchers know how much we appreciate all they do behind the scenes during ongoing emergencies,” she said. “Since the Covid-19 pandemic has limited our lives, we will not be able to celebrate with a large appreciation party like we normally would, but if you happen to see one of our hard-working dispatchers this week, please offer them a compliment on a job well done. They deserve it. Thank you, Barbara, Patricia, Lawanda, Samantha, Kiarra, Tiffany.”