By invitation of Captain Christopher McKee and in support of National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, I spent three hours with Suffield Police Dispatcher, Lorraine Morelli. This visit demonstrated to me the seriousness and expertise of police dispatchers. Between calls, she was able to offer basic explanations of all the technical equipment used by the dispatchers. I felt fortunate to be observing an expert at work.
Dispatcher Morelli sits in front of three sets of double screens. Above these are security cameras which display police station doorways, cells, and other vital access points. She has three computer screens in front of her and three “mice” to operate them. Lorraine also has a specially mounted telephone, a portable radio and a microphone for inter-station communication. I was mesmerized watching her skillfully maneuvering among the various tools of her trade.
Suffield has five dispatchers: Nick Fasano, Elizabeth Hayes, Lauren Mayhew, Lorraine Morelli and Mildred Webster. They are well-trained professionals who dedicate their work to serving the public. If you have ever called SPD, for any reason, you have spoken to one of them! They are often referred to as, “The first first responders” because they handle every 911 call. They keep calm and help frightened callers provide the needed information so that the dispatcher can direct the appropriate response. This is a credit to their training and experience. They are ready to handle requests for help from the simple (not stressful) to the complex (very stressful). In the daily work of a dispatcher, there is an overlap period between the arrival of the next shift and the departure of the previous shift. This may be just a few minutes of overlap or it could be lengthy, depending on the nature of a call.
Every day is different for a dispatcher. It was relatively calm and there were no 911 calls during my visit. But there was a constancy to the incoming messages which provided little opportunity for Lorraine to finish answer my questions without interrruptions.
Dispatcher Morelli’s background and experience clearly help her to be the professional I witnessed at work. She became a volunteer firefighter in l984, an Emergency Medical Technician in l997, and Assistant Fire Chief in East Hartland. Lorraine holds a State of Connecticut Dispatcher certificate. And she can even drive an ambulance!
Suffield can rest easier knowing that Lorraine and her fellow dispatchers are there for us.