Five computer screens surround Lynn Gore.
She uses intuition on each call that rings in to the Horry County 911 dispatch center.
There are multiple things to do at one time – checking the National Crime Information Center, local warrants, the dispatch screen, using the mapping system, trying to ping a phone’s location.
Gore has worked for 17 years at the center – a center that gets about 2,000 calls each day. She answers 911 calls and works the dispatcher desk, too. Every day is different.
She said she’s mentally at the scene during each call.
“I’m right there with them,” Gore said. “There’s times I wish I could just grab the phone, and get in my car and go. But I also have faith we are getting someone there are quick as possible.”
Each call starts off the same – “9-1-1, what’s the address of your emergency?”
She’s had calls about people barricaded inside homes with guns. She’s helped save lives by talking people through CPR, something she’s certified in.
But each call plays out differently.
She’s answered thousands of calls throughout her years at the department, but there are still quite a few calls that shock her.
The calls that impact her the most involve elderly people and children.
She’ll never forget one call – a call she reflects on every year at Christmas time.
It was 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve. The room of call takers and dispatchers were having good conversation passing the time.
“And then we get this call,” she said. “The whole room just gets sick to their stomach.”
A 12-year-old had hung himself.
“You could just see everyone try to hold it together because that’s what we do – hold it together,” Gore said. “When I left work that morning, it was one of the few times I cried because I normally keep it together.”
Gore tries to remember during each call that the person on the other end of the phone is having his or her worst day, worst trauma.
“We need to get you help,” she often says to calm someone. “Take a deep breath. Breathe. We need to get this information from you.”
The phone call ends when first responders get to the scene.
“I don’t think we ever mentally disconnect, it’s just that we know we have a job to do,” Gore said. “We have to move on to the next, when we hang up that call, there’s going to be someone else calling again.”
Gore said the department is supportive after tough calls. She said they’re encouraged to walk out and take a break if they need to.
And support groups are available after traumatic incidents for call takers, dispatchers and first responders.
Director Renee Hardwick said Gore is one of those “honey-it’s-going-to-be-OK” dispatchers.
“That compassion and caring is who she is,” Hardwick said, adding it’s not only when she’s on the phone that she’s compassionate.
Gore is quick to stand up and help her colleagues, Hardwick said.
And when Gore sees someone struggling with a broken-down vehicle or walking on the side of the road in distress, she stops to help – even when she once had a broken foot.
What is Horry County E-911?
Horry County Communications was created in 1990.
Telecommunicators – the official name for call takers and dispatchers – don’t get do overs, said Hardwick, who has been with the department for 34 years.
“We’re dealing with peoples’ lives,” Hardwick said. “We are the lifeline for the field reporters.”
She said the department has to have people who handle chaos well.
The center recently had 1,224 calls within two hours during a Fourth of July active shooter scare at Broadway at the Beach’s firework show. Police said there was no active shooter, instead a large fight. Rumors began to swirl about a shooting, causing more than 1,000 people to call 911.
The last time the center had a large amount of calls in a short time was July 6, 2001, when a tornado touched down on the beach.
“Of course it lit everything up,” Hardwick said.
The whole room of call takers and dispatchers, she said, are a team – a team that multitasks, stays calm, cares and listens.
Hannah Strong: 843-444-1765, @HannahLStrong