Jessica Stewart serves as Crenshaw County E911 dispatcher

Published 7:37 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

When Crenshaw County residents find themselves in need of emergency assistance, they’re likely to encounter E911 dispatcher Jessica Stewart, who has been serving her neighbors for over four years at Crenshaw County E911.

Stewart got her feet wet in the emergency response community as a volunteer fire department member and said it sparked an interest which led her to the career she now holds dear to her heart.

“During my time as a member of the Shackleville Volunteer Fire Department I became intrigued with what happens on the other side of the radio,” Stewart said. “I started at Crenshaw E911 in October 2017. I took a break for a bit from October 2018-August 2019 and dispatched for an EMS (emergency medical services) company out of state before coming back to Crenshaw in August 2019.”

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While the responsibilities of a dispatcher can sometimes be misunderstood by members of the public, Stewart said that her job duties often extend far beyond just answering calls.

“I have heard people say ‘Oh, so you just answer the phones,’” Stewart expressed. “They don’t understand that yes, we answer phones, but all the while setting tones off to dispatch responding agencies, answering other radio traffic that may come, and answering other phone lines, as well as getting all the information we can from our caller to relay to responding departments. All that can be going on simultaneously.”

According to Stewart, working as a dispatcher bears a heavy weight on the shoulders of those who encounter the first point of contact with someone in an emergency situation. However, knowing she has helped a neighbor in need helps to ground her when tensions run high.

“Dispatching is emotionally challenging,” Stewart said. “We have to keep our composure when it can be utter chaos on the other end of the phone.  No calls are the same and sometimes one call can drain your emotional battery quickly, but my favorite part is hearing the relief in someone’s voice when the help they need gets there. It makes me feel good that I can help them when they need it most.”

Stewart expressed the importance of dispatchers in relation to the first responder community and urged individuals who have a desire to help their community in times of need to explore opportunities to pursue a career in E911.

“Dispatching is a very crucial role among first responders,” Stewart said. “It is also very rewarding. I encourage anyone who may have an interest to look more into it.”