Williams: E911 dispatchers handled vital communications role after tornado

Published 8:00 am Friday, March 31, 2023

Hannah Williams became a Vicksburg Warren E911 dispatcher because she enjoys helping people.

“My sister-in-law Paige Cook is a dispatcher here; she’s actually my supervisor and she’s kind of what got me jump-started in this profession,” she said. “I knew I wanted to help people but wasn’t sure that this is the route I was going to go.”

Williams has been a dispatcher for three years, working a 12-hour shift three days a week.

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“That’s how my shift goes; three days on, two off. It rotates,” she said, adding she is assigned to a dayshift.

Being a dispatcher, Williams said, “Is probably the hardest but most rewarding job I’ve ever had besides being a mom. You can have 100 bad days here that make you question why you picked this profession. Then you have one good day or something as simple as one good phone call that reminds you why you put up with those 100 bad days.”

Dispatchers handle calls for the Vicksburg Police and Fire departments, Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Warren County Fire Service, which consists of the county’s volunteer fire departments. It also means dispatchers get a lot of unusual calls for help.

Williams said her most unusual call to date came March 25, the day after the Rolling Fork tornado, when she and her team handled emergency calls for Warren, Sharkey and Issaquena counties.

“It was three different agencies,” she said. “It was all the extra calls and the units — police, fire and sheriff’s office.”

Williams said dispatchers answered several calls during the day, trying to help get police, fire and medical units to the calls in areas where they were unfamiliar and without the aid of maps of the affected area.

“We’ve dispatched Warren County for so long and we’re aware of our surroundings,” she said. “When you take on another place like that, their 911 calls come in and we’re getting streets that we’ve never heard of before, you know; we don’t even have a general idea of what they (callers) were talking about.

“I felt like the pressure was on because I just wanted to make sure that we got them (first responders) to the right place to help that person,” she added.

“When our 911 phones ring, we get a ‘ping’ on our map,” she said, adding the ping gives the dispatcher a location from where the call is coming. But when the 911 calls from Sharkey and Issaquena were transferred to Vicksburg-Warren E911 at noon that Saturday, Williams said, “They came through our admin (administration) line. They didn’t come through a 911 line.

“For me and my team, it was a whole new ballgame but we really could not have done it without each other. Honestly, enough praise could not be given because there was no hesitation in picking up. I wouldn’t want to be in that situation with any other three people.

“I want to give a shout-out to my shift because dispatchers are the last to be recognized and I want to make sure they get the recognition they deserve,” Williams said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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