From day one Samantha McKenzie knew her calling was to be a first responder.
“I am an adrenaline junkie,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie started out at the Warren County Volunteer Fire Department with Bobby Rufus, administrator at Warren County 911 Emergency or E-911.
“Bobby Rufus said, ‘Hey we got openings up at dispatch,’ and I was saying to myself ‘I don’t know about that’,” McKenzie said.
Her apprehension came from her love of being an Emergency Medical Technician, or EMT.
“I had just finished up at Hinds in Raymond to be an EMT,” she said, “and I wasn’t sure at the time if I would even like life as a dispatcher.”
Turns out her fear was for no reason at all. McKenzie fell in love with being a dispatcher and is still able to fulfill her EMT tank part-time.
“I’m so passionate about my job,” she said. It’s never the same every day. It’s not one of those routine 9-a.m.-to-5 p.m. jobs where you come in and clock out. It’s different.”
McKenzie started her life as a dispatcher in 2012, and she got confirmation she was good at what she does when she was named Dispatcher of the Year after her first full year at E-911 in 2013.
“I was motivated to get Dispatcher of the Year,” she said. “That moment sticks with me because it was a huge goal I set for myself, and I made it within my first year of being here.”
During the month of April, hardworking dispatchers and public-safety telecommunicators celebrate National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. Normally, this week falls during the second week of April.
“At the end of the week, the supervisors get together and nominate dispatchers who they think should be dispatcher of the year,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie said this is not an easy task to achieve.
“You have to have good discipline—no write-ups, no call-outs—and you have to have good call (evaluations),” she said. “Everything adds up. It is a big deal for whoever gets it. It’s huge.”
Working at E-911, McKenzie has a choice to work days or nights and oddly enough with three children and a fiance in law enforcement, nights work best for her.
“Nightshift works out easier for my family because my fiance works days,” she said, “and he is a police officer, so our schedule works out well with getting them to school and wherever else they need to go.”
The 29-year-old dispatcher and Warren Central graduate enjoys the outdoors with her family when she’s not coordinating emergencies.
“My family and I love the outdoors. Hunting, fishing, horses—you name it. If it’s outside, we will do it,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie has been with E-911 for eight years and she has no plans of putting down the headset anytime soon.
“This job is ever-changing,” she said, “and I love it.”
“Those who keep us safe” is a series profiling people in Vicksburg and Warren County whose work contributes to our safety, whether on the front lines, in the back office or in positions of leadership in organizations dedicated to serving the community in times of danger and crises. Nominate someone for the series by sending an email to email@example.com, letting us know why the community should know about him or her.See a typo? Report it here.