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Douglas County dispatcher earns state award

The Douglas County Communication Center resembled the Bat Cave on Tuesday, decked out with balloons and streamers in Batman's signature black and yellow. The colors, or thin gold line, also stand for another kind of hero, the dispatchers who answ...

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Dispatcher and trainer Elizabeth “Liz” Eibon sits at a chair in the Douglas County Communication Center Tuesday. Eibon was named the Wisconsin Telecommunicator of the Year, the first time a Douglas County employee has received the annual award. Eibon has been with the communication center since 2006 and said she loves her job. Maria Lockwood
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The Douglas County Communication Center resembled the Bat Cave on Tuesday, decked out with balloons and streamers in Batman's signature black and yellow. The colors, or thin gold line, also stand for another kind of hero, the dispatchers who answer 911 calls.

"That person calling has never met the person they called," said Bob Frank, president of the Wisconsin chapter of the National Emergency Number Association. "They have no idea, and they're trusting them with their lives when they hit that 911 button."

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, which wraps up tomorrow, honors the thousands of men and women who respond to emergency calls, dispatch emergency professionals and provide lifesaving assistance 24/7, 365 days a year.

"You expect someone you don't know, who you've never met, to get you the help you need," Frank said. "One such person is Liz."

Elizabeth "Liz" Eibon has worked with the Douglas County Communications center for 11 years as a dispatcher and trainer. She was honored Tuesday as the Wisconsin Telecommunicator of the Year. It's the first time a Douglas County employee has been recognized with the award, which was initiated by the national association and the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials in 1999.

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"Day after day, Liz puts in the hard work that helps make everyone in Douglas County communication center a little better at their jobs," said fellow dispatcher, Jason Semo, in his nomination letter.

She's a great trainer, a dependable partner and an "absolute asset" to the communications center, he said.

"Liz goes above and beyond to ensure that everyone around her is doing the best job possible. Her positive attitude makes coming to work enjoyable for all around her," Semo said. "I don't think it would be a stretch to say that everyone who works here is a little better at their job because of her tutelage."

The job involves technical savvy and a talent for troubleshooting. Dispatchers head a station with six computer screens, two keyboards, three mice, a radio, phone, maps and more.

"People don't realize that they serve 20 different fire departments, two EMS agencies, law enforcement and any other service that might be needed, poison control, who knows what that call's going to be," Frank said. "They don't know until they pick it up. And they've got to put those services together."

The Douglas County Communications Center responds to a little more than 79,000 calls a year. Of those, 43,000 - an average of 117 a day - are emergency calls.

Eibon was looking for a change when she applied to become a dispatcher. She had no idea what the job entailed, but soon realized she'd found the perfect fit. Despite the long hours, unpredictable days and stressful moments, the mother of two said she loves her job.

"It's calm for a while and then all of a sudden it can get busy, and we just have to think fast on our toes, make lifesaving decisions and that's kind of what keeps it interesting," Eibon said. "It's never the same day twice."

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Dispatchers rarely hear the end of the story, but they help callers at a crucial point in their lives.

"That's kind of why we do it," Eibon said. "It's great, because at the end of the day, knowing that what I did could have helped someone, it's rewarding."

Fellow dispatcher Mike "Mick" Stein was Eibon's trainer.

"It can get rough down there sometimes, and stressful," he said. "She's one that's good to keep things light, help everybody cope a little bit. The job has not gotten to her at all, still very good attitude."

As Semo put it, "She's awesome."

Eibon said she was honored by the award, and the week-long recognition.

"Nobody calls 911 when they are having a good day just to say thank you," she said. "We don't hear that a lot."

She gave a shout-out to the entire communications center team.

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"I work with a great group of people. My coworkers are wonderful. They do the same job as me day-in, day-out. We see each other so much that we become family," she said. "And they should also be recognized for the work that they do."

More information on the Wisconsin Telecommunicator of the Year award can be found online at www.wipscom.org .

Related Topics: POLICE
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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