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Sat, Dec. 07

911 operators are a lifeline for those in need

She is the calming voice on the other end of the phone line in case of an emergency.

Her quick actions can literally mean the difference between life and death.

She - or someone like her - is there 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people who hear a noise in the darkness of their home and need the police, if a fire breaks out and they need the fire department, or if they or a loved one needs immediate medical assistance.

Anita Perez's job as a 911 dispatcher is to calm down a panicky caller to get vital information so emergency personnel can help.

Perez, 39, originally from Winslow, has been a 911 dispatcher at the Kingman Police Department for three years.

"Other jobs you go to is the same thing every day," Perez said.

"You go to this job and every day is different."

One of 13 dispatchers on duty at KPD, Perez will rotate throughout her shift working either police calls or fire and medical calls.

No less than two dispatchers are on duty at all times, and preferably three are on duty, she said.

Perez, who works 10-hour days, four days a week, said that the most busiest times are usually during the day and on the swing shift.

Working on police calls, she will check information on license plates and driver's licenses, called in by the traffic cop to see if there are any warrants out for the offending driver.

Fire calls from Hualapai Valley and Kingman fire departments, medical calls and calls for animal control are handled by a second dispatcher, she said.

The immediate Kingman area is the extent of the 911 dispatch.

Golden Valley and Dolan Springs and other areas are covered by the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, which has its own dispatchers.

Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City have their own dispatchers.

"The hardest part is when people scream into your ear," Perez said.

"Children are also difficult because their voices are so high.

I try to get out them what kind of help they need."

Dispatchers go through a on-the-job training for about six months.

Other training includes instruction on cardiopulmonary resuscitation to walk someone through before medical personal arrives on the scene.

A medical book, with information on everything from animal bites to CPR is within the dispatcher's reach.

One dispatcher even had to give childbirth instructions to a caller.

"I think the firemen got there before the baby was born," Perez said.

Perez is one of two bilingual dispatchers.

There are times when she is called at home to handle a call from a Spanish-speaking caller.

She also said crank calls are not usually a problem.

"Some 911 calls are just kids calling to see if it works," she said.

"We'll handle every call as a 911 call, not a crank call."

When a person calls 911, their address and phone number are displayed on Perez's computer screen.

If the phone number or address is not shown on her screen and the caller refuses to give it to her, she will have the other dispatcher trace the call.

There is even a machine, which sits atop the 911-phone bank, designed to handle emergency calls from someone who is deaf or mute.

Typed in words will show up on the screen.

"When you help people, you feel really good about it," she said.

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