Being a 911 dispatcher requires the aptitude to multitask, an excellent sense of geography and the ability to maintain a cool head. Cat McFadon has been exercising those skills for more than 20 years at Stanislaus Regional 9-1-1 and has risen through the ranks to become a manager.
While scheduling and other administrative work make up much of her responsibilities, McFadon said the people of Stanislaus County are her top priority, so she often is answering calls and dispatching police and fire when it’s busy.
SR9-1-1 covers every fire agency in the county and seven law enforcement agencies: Modesto Police Department, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and its contract cities (Hughson, Waterford, Riverbank and Patterson) and the Newman Police Department. The center also recently agreed to start dispatching for the Stanislaus County Probation Department.
McFadon wanted to be a police officer since she was a little girl, but she chose dispatching when she learned about the career as an Explorer for the Ceres Police Department. The idea of being the first point of contact in an emergency was intriguing, McFadon said.
Within a matter of minutes, a dispatcher can talk to a person who just lost a loved one or is the victim of a violent crime and then answer a call from someone angry about trash being dumped in his yard.
The job of a dispatcher is not for the faint of heart.
The public does not call you when they are having a great day. They call because they are in a crisis, angry, frustrated, intoxicated, mentally ill, etc. You have to be a professional. This means you stay calm, breathe and remember that nothing is personal. You never know who you might be talking to. Everyone needs to be treated like a family member; with courtesy and respect.
We work 12-hour shifts. 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and one additional shift designated for Modesto police that is a 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.
With the downfall of the economy and legislation regarding early release on inmates, it seems that crime statistics are up in most cities across California. I find now we are busy seven days a week, around the clock.
The parents of the young lady called the police and said, ‘There is a person stuck in our chimney.’ Sure enough, the officers got on scene and heard a young man yelling for help from the chimney. The fire department was sent. They had to break the bricks on the fireplace to get him out.