Melanie Williams: Crenshaw County 911 Dispatcher

Published 1:14 pm Saturday, September 23, 2023

When people think of first responders, usually the first to come to mind are firefighters and police officers. However, there is a sector of the emergency response community that is often overlooked – 911 dispatchers. 

When an emergency situation arises and a call is placed for help, the dispatcher on the other side of the phone gets right to work gathering information about the situation, locating and contacting the appropriate units to respond, all while doing their best to calm the fears of the caller.

Previously a volunteer firefighter with Highland Home Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Melanie Williams realized a passion for emergency response which led her to a career in 911 dispatching. Shee has been dutifully answering the calls of concerned Crenshaw County citizens for over eight years.

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Williams acknowledged that there is much about being a dispatcher that citizens often don’t realize, and that dispatchers are tasked with much more than simply answering calls.

“A lot of people think it’s just answering the phone, and there’s a lot more to it,” Williams said. “A lot of people don’t realize how much we do, especially when we have a hysterical caller on the phone and they are counting on us to help them.”

Dispatchers are the first line of response in the majority of emergency situations, unfortunately not all of which have a happy ending no matter how diligently first responders work to address the situation. According to Williams, this is the most challenging part of her career.

“For me, the hardest thing is trying not to blame myself when a call ends badly,” Williams said. “For instance, when you have a caller who is talking about committing an act like suicide and you can’t talk them out of it. Trying not to blame yourself after the fact or trying to reason with yourself about what you could have done better to prevent it can be extremely difficult.”

Scott Strickland, director of Crenshaw County 911, said Williams is and always has been an asset to the Crenshaw County emergency response.

“Melanie is truly a dedicated member of our team,” Strickland said. “She always gives her best effort to make sure the services we provide meet or exceed expectations. We have had some really great operators during my time at 911 and Melanie always ranks up there with the best of them.”