LaWanda Thomas says she found her calling when she joined E-911 4 years ago. In that short time, she has progressed from a trainee in the 911 call center to the training coordinator for the entire facility.
Her rapid rise is no accident; Thomas immediately fell in love with the work and soaked up information like a sponge, learning everything she could and even studying and practicing calls at home. She was happy to come in anytime, day or night, to fill gaps in the schedule or cover for co-workers.
“I took to it like a fish to water, like it was what I was meant to do,” Thomas said. “To me, this is a career that I was made for.”
As the training coordinator, Thomas is responsible for giving new team members all the tools they need to assist callers on, as she said, what could be the worst day of their lives. The job requires a mastery of an intimidating array of technology, multi-tasking, and the ability to remain calm and focused in high-stakes situations.
Thomas says the average emergency call lasts two to three minutes. In that time, the dispatcher has determined the caller’s location, identity, and the nature of the emergency. Depending on the situation, there are pre-determined questions that must be asked to efficiently determine what kind of response is required, as well as to ensure that all callers receive equal treatment and responders are prepared with the information and equipment they need to address the emergency safely and effectively. In just three minutes, all of this is accomplished and responders are on the way.
“To this day, I love to sit at that console. I love to be on the other end of that phone, I love what I do,” Thomas said. “I want to be that calm voice.”
“Everybody is getting the exact same treatment, consistently. If this is your situation, the questions are the same for that type of situation,” Thomas said.
LaWanda is married Dewayne Thomas, who works at Tyson Foods, Inc., and is a mother of four. She is looking forward to celebrating the holidays with her three grandchildren.