- Associated Press - Monday, June 8, 2015

HARRISON, Ark. (AP) - Kathy Hanlin sits behind a bank of computers and monitors inside dispatch at the Harrison Police Department.

“Harrison to 1-0-7,” she calls on the radio.

“Go ahead,” the officer answers.

“I have a subject on the line who needs to talk to an officer regarding fraudulent prescriptions,” she tells the officer.

“10-4,” is the answer and Hanlin moves onto the next call.

Hanlin has been with the department since October 2003. She started as a dispatcher.

“And never left,” she told the Harrison Daily (https://bit.ly/1G312Bn ).

Hanlin is a Lead Hill High School graduate, but she also holds a degree in biomedical electronic technology from North Arkansas College.

Her sister worked at the department and encouraged her to apply for a dispatcher position when it came open almost 12 years ago. The rest is history as Hanlin is now dispatch supervisor for the department.

It may seem like a simple job, dispatching officers on calls for service or to car crashes or domestic disturbances or sometimes unusual calls that don’t fit into any real category. For instance, a woman called not long ago to report two dogs were mating on her neighbor’s porch and she didn’t want her grandchildren to see it. Hanlin dispatched Animal Control without a blink of an eye.

But there’s more to the job. Harrison Police Department Dispatchers also handle emergency calls for the Harrison Fire Department, whether they be for a structure fire or the hospital’s request for help with a patient or for firefighters to extricate someone from a car wreck. Some people call 911 with “emergencies” they feel need to be handled as soon as possible. Then, there are calls from the public on any number of issues that can’t always be explained.

Sometimes those things happen all at once. It’s not unusual for a dispatcher to handle radio traffic with officers, a 911 emergency call, two or three simultaneous phone calls and someone going to the window in the department lobby requesting assistance.

It can get to be a wild ride, but Hanlin knows about wild rides: She’s been riding horses for more than a quarter of a century.

Hanlin explained that her grandfather raised horses. “It’s just always been part of the family,” she adds.

She said she started riding about the time she was 6, when her family moved back to the states from Saudi Arabia. Her father had a non-military job there as an airplane mechanic.

That hobby isn’t just about a casual ride through the countryside. Hanlin’s also a barrel racer.

“I like any of the speed events,” she said.

Meanwhile, back at the department, her morning is progressing as usual.

The officer investigating the prescription fraud contacts her with additional information to be logged. She obliges.

North Arkansas Regional Medical Center personnel call requesting Harrison Rescue assist them with a one-vehicle/utility pole crash near the Missouri state line. She dispatches firefighters.

A man goes to the counter looking for the Water Department. She gives him directions, then takes note of his report of potential problems with a relative. That might be used for future reference.

An officer stops in dispatch for a print out of an arrest record, while a woman goes to the window requesting a background check for housing assistance and a woman waits behind her for advice on using a child safety seat for her car.

That happens in about five minutes.

She recalls an airplane crash at the airport. Officers were scrambled and were on scene, requesting help from other emergency personnel. Hospital personnel were calling from help from firefighters. All those calls came through the tiny room where the dispatcher sits.

“And I was new then,” Hanlin said. “Thankfully there were other people in here.”

When phones are ringing and officers are calling for back-up and people are at the lobby window, Hanlin processes the information per priority. If someone calls with a non-emergency during a life threatening situation, the call might have to wait just a bit.

“It’s mainly multi-tasking unless there’s something serious going on, then you focus on that and hope everyone understands,” she says.

They usually do.


Information from: Harrison Daily Times, https://www.harrisondaily.com

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