JANESVILLE, Wis.— A Rock County 911 night-shift supervisor found a special way to help his crew navigate the challenges of being a call operator.
"If you ever asked anybody how they're doing, especially in this field, they'll tell you they're living the dream," Mark Elland said. "I don't know how many of them are actually stuck in the nightmare," he added.
Elland knows it is a demanding and difficult job.
"It's something that not everybody can do, and not everybody should do," he said.
But he realizes his fellow dispatchers deserve a service coming online in other first responder fields such as police and firework. So Elland, a 35-year ordained minister and 15 year Town of Beloit Police Chaplain, decided to talk with his center and various Rock County law enforcement about bringing the communication center a peer support team of its own.
"A couple of peers have their own dispatchers that they can actually talk too," he said. "Who are, you know, who keep things in confidence," Elland said. He says the confidence is never betrayed and the service is never forced. He says during COVID, this can be an especially important tool.
"It's hard for us to come alongside somebody and just you know or somebody give somebody else a hug because of the fact that we want to maintain that distance if at all possible," he said. "It's nice to have some people in place that are that are able to talk to them, that people can go to and say ‘Hey, you know, we're just here to listen.’"
Because with rising concerns over dispatchers nationwide facing the effects of PTSD, this could help his team stay strong.
"It helps with coping. It really does help us cope," he said.
Rock County’s 9-1-1 Peer Support Pilot Program being launched with another one in Green County. Both are expected to be fully operational by Thanksgiving. By the way — Dane and Waukesha’s 911 centers also offer a similar service to its' dispatchers.