PLATTSBURGH — The phone is ringing off the hook, and State Police dispatchers Kathy Owen and Bill Reyell never know what’s going to be on the other end.
Owen has been working as a dispatcher since 1985.
”I’ve seen a lot,” she said.
Over the years, there’s been numerous fatal car accidents, suicides, homicides, burglaries and robberies, Owen said.
Although dispatching can be stressful at times, at least boredom isn’t part of the job, Reyell added.
”It keeps me entertained.”
There are always two people staffing the small room just inside the Plattsburgh State Police barracks.
But as the phones continue to ring, it’s clear there’s not much time for dispatchers to think about anything but the task at hand while they’re at work.
”(There’s) not a lot of time to panic,” Reyell said. “It’s too busy.”
In front of Owen and Reyell is a sea of buttons. Green and red lights flash on the phones, each showing a separate call they have answered.
”We’re kind of the funnel. Everything comes through here,” Reyell said.
There’s no rhyme or reason to the number of calls.
”It can go from quiet to chaotic within seconds,” Owen said. “More serious incidents take priority.”
The dispatchers answer call after call, putting some on hold and moving on to the next caller in case he or she has an emergency.
A dispatcher is a jack-of-all-trades, at once acting as complaint receiver, emergency dispatcher, recorder and receptionist to those who enter the barracks. The door that provides access to the investigators’ offices and troopers’ area is always locked, and the dispatchers can buzz visitors in — once they find a free moment.
It’s multitasking at its best.
The dispatchers communicate with troopers on the road using a radio console next to their phones with dozens of buttons on it.