In 1995, St. Johns County native Christie Taylor followed some advice that completely changed her life. Christie’s husband, a deputy with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, suggested she become a 911 dispatcher. Now, twenty-two years later, she’s now a lieutenant in charge with overseeing the entire operation of communications.
Though now in a supervisory role, over the years Christie has taken her fair share of calls. As the head of communications and dispatch, she witnesses her team members consistently solve crimes and save lives because they asked the right questions. Being a part of this behind-the-scenes assistance – the position Christie aptly refers to as the “first responder’s first responder” – is what fuels her love of the communications field.
“I want to take care of the people that call on me, because typically when they call, it’s the worst day of their life,” says Christie. “We need to realize that no matter what’s going on in your life, you’re there for them right then.”
The most common question a 911 dispatcher is asked concerns their most difficult or memorable call. Unfortunately, those calls are usually the most morbid or disturbing. Instead, Christie likes to focus on ones that remind her that they are doing something important.
In her early years as a dispatcher, before cell phones, before the lines were extraordinarily busy, she took a call from a citizen in the middle of the night. The man just wanted to talk. “I honestly felt like he just needed to make a human connection,” says Christie. “We talk about exciting 911 calls all of the time, the police chases and when people get shot and we’re working the radio. But for some reason, that call from 20 years ago sticks in my mind.”
She felt like she made a difference, and her gut instinct tells her that if someone hadn’t been there to talk to him, even to chitchat for a few moments, something awful might have happened.
Unfortunately, dispatchers often don’t receive the closure of what happened after they hang up the phone. Instead of finding out the end of the tale, they have to move on to the next emergency, and then the next. “Sometimes we never know,” says Christie. “Did that little boy really drown? Did we get the pulse back on him? What really happened?”
Still, as a supervisor, Christie is continuously amazed at how her staff manages to keep up with all of the calls. While she occasionally gets to step in and take a call herself, her main purpose is to keep things running smoothly for the dispatchers. She also maintains an active role in providing training to new recruits and assists in the hiring process.
The SJSO is always accepting applications. Multitasking is a must and while dispatchers will often be busy, Christie recommends finding a way to leave work at work. For her, she focuses on life with her husband and her four-year-old daughter. “That’s my grounding,” says Christie. “When there’s a lot of stress in the work, or a bad call has happened, it’s good to go home to my family.”