Salute The Badge: Riley Co. dispatcher a 'behind the scenes' hero

Published: Jan. 29, 2018 at 12:08 PM CST
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There is one call that Riley County Dispatcher Dawn Wickizer will never forget.

A young Riley county teen was attempting suicide and Wickizer took the call.

"I can't get the screams… I still hear him screaming whenever I get that call,” she said.

The call ended with good news.

"We were able to direct the officers and they were able to save him," Wickizer said.

As a 911 Dispatcher for 12 years, Wickizer is no stranger to saving lives behind the scenes. Many times, she will never see the faces of the lives she saved, a reality of many 911 dispatchers.

"When that 911 rings, you never know what it's going to be. You don't know if it's somebody not breathing, or if it's a dog running at large. You have no clue." Wickizer said.

Wickizer says the uncertainty of the job, is what drives her.

911 Dispatchers are sometimes an afterthought when thinking of first responders, but they are the first ones to help. Dawn describes herself not only a dispatcher, but a counselor, or even someone who can provide medical advice. Wickizer's supervisor Sarah Martin says that there are many reasons why 911 Dispatchers are the first 'first responders'.

"Oftentimes we will have to provide CPR or life instructions like how to control bleeding or even deliver babies before before officers or EMS even arrive on scene," Martin said.

Wickizer says that no call is ever the same and dispatchers must have the ability to find a solution within minutes.

"Parents screaming that their child is not breathing, a gun clicking when someone is trying to commit officer screaming for help, but you can't get there fast enough," she said.

Wickizer says everyday she walks in to work, her team of dispatchers, police officers, firefighters and EMS crews has her back. When one member of the team is down, they are all down.

When a Riley County police officer was shot during a standoff in Manhattan early January, Wickizer wasn't present in the office, but she was still affected.

"It's hard when you see it happen to people that you care so much about, you don't want to see them get hurt," Wickizer said.

But even in the midst of tragedy, Wickizer says that there are also good days, where she and her team work together to reassure every caller that help is on the way.

"It's pretty nerve racking when you are first starting out to understand how much we actually do and that we are the first first responders," she said. "But you just have to do your best and be able to live with that."