Name: Nancy Winchell
Married or single? “I’m married.”
Occupation: Liberty County Public Safety Communications officer for a little more than two years.
What drove you to this line of work? “I’ve always wanted to do something in criminal justice.”
What is the most rewarding aspect of the job? “Seeing that people get the help they need and want.”
What is the most stressful call you’ve handled? While she said there were several she said it was hard to think of one at that moment. However she did recall a man who called when he was lost and managed to end up in the middle of the firing range on Fort Stewart.
“For 30 minutes I spoke to him and to officials on Fort Stewart trying to get him out of there and back on Highway 144,” she said.
Winchell said they were able to track where he was by his cell phone signal, something a recent technological update to their system now allows.
How has the added cell phone technology helped your job? “That has helped a lot,” she said. “Especially people on the interstate who do not know where they are at. We are usually able to pinpoint a location of where they are.”
Winchell demonstrated what it looks like by showing how a call can be triangulated and mapped out on the monitor as a dot on the mapping screen.
Within Liberty County they are able to get a longitude and latitude positioning based on the cell phone signal.
Describe a typical day: “Some days it’s worse than others, usually from 2 p.m. on,” she said. “It gets worse we stay constantly busy. We work as a team to make sure everything gets done and we handle it.”
Winchell works the day shift with three other officers and a supervisor. She said sometimes they are more like family than coworkers because of the amount of time they spend at work and the situations they have to help each other through.
Can you recall a comical or light moment at work? “I did have one that I thought was not going to turn out so well, a possible death,” she said. “It turns out the female was just tired and her husband would not leave her alone.”
How do communication officers fit into the public safety scheme of things? “We are the ones who relay the information to the officers,” she said. “Get them to go where they need to go and provide the information on who they are looking for and what they need to do.”
How does someone become a communication officer and what did you need to learn? “I had to learn the 10-codes, we learned about the different units that we dispatch and the different apparatuses that are used at a fire. I learned how to dispatch, what all the signs mean there was a lot.”
Winchell said its six to eight weeks of classroom studies, followed by time with a training officer. That part of the process could take months, depending on the individual.
How nervous were you in your first call? “Actually the first call I listened to was quite scary,” she said. “But it was not so bad. When I first had to speak, I was a little nervous.”
How long did it take you to learn the computer screens and what each shows? “When I first started there were only four screens,” she said. “It wasn’t too hard. For me it was harder to learn the mouses and which mouse went to what.”
Each officer sits at a computer station with six monitors and the computers’ hub station. Winchell has four mouses she has to manage, along with the phone system and operational keyboards.
The communications officers dispatch for law enforcement in every municipality and the county, all the city and volunteer fire departments and EMS throughout the county.
What do you do when you get a call: “The first thing when you take a call…. the most important thing is to get the address,” Winchell explained. “Then you get all the details and their phone number and what their situation is. Then we give it to the officer, where they are going and why. Then depending on the type of call we would either keep the person on the phone or not and sometimes we even provide follow up information to the officers or fire department, like where the person is in the house or if it’s the officer relaying information to us we can give the caller information and keep them informed on what to do.”
What is the worst part of the job? “The worst part of the job can be either being too busy where it becomes really stressful in trying to get everything done to where we are not doing anything at all because then time goes by very slowly.”
What is your goal in this career? “I like doing the dispatching but maybe either furthering to a supervisor or branching out to a police officer,” she said.