Phyllis Dunphy has been a dispatcher for the for almost 30 years. She worked as a part-time dispatcher while driving a school bus from 1983 to 1985 before she was offered a full-time dispatching job at the .
During that time, Dunphy has seen many changes–when she started, the town didn’t have 911–and has been on the receiving end of many emergency calls. However, her time serving the town is coming to an end as she is retiring next month.
North Branford Patch: What do you enjoy about being a dispatcher?
Dunphy: When I first started, I was an EMT and in the fire department so working as a dispatcher was almost like an extension of that. It was nice to know that I was still saving lives when I was at work, that I was helping people, sometimes in their worst times. It always made me feel good and feel proud.
North Branford Patch: What does a day in the life of a dispatcher entail?
Dunphy: It’s a crazy way to live. You’re always on call, you work holidays and weekends, but my husband has been very understanding. Every day is different, which is the nice part of the job. We run plates for officers, check people’s history or if they’re wanted by other departments when they’re arrested; we handle calls for the fire department, 911 and emergency medical dispatch. We answer the phone and talk to people in the lobby. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
North Branford Patch: How technical is your job?
Dunphy: Every two years, I have to recertify on the NCIC computer so it has been continual education. I have eight computer screens in front of me and each has a different function.
North Branford Patch: What shifts do you work?
Dunphy: The busiest shift is 3 to 11, which I worked for many years, but I also worked midnights for almost 20 years because it worked with my family life. I’ve been on the day shift for the past couple years.
North Branford Patch: What calls stand out to you thinking back on your 29-year career?
Dunphy: I worked the night that the burned down and I’ve answered quite a few medicals with people having heart attacks or not breathing and I’ve been able to talk people through getting them to breathe again. In all the years, though, I haven’t gotten to deliver a baby as an EMT or a dispatcher. There were a couple who called while they were in labor, but they’ve gotten to the hospital.
About 20 years ago, I was training a new dispatcher one night when a baby was kidnapped and there was a huge manhunt. One of our police dogs tracked him and was able to get the baby back two days later.
I was also working the night the police officer shot the lady on Route 80 and that was probably the most terrifying night in my career. The officer stopped a car and the guy ran into the woods. He was talking to me as he ran after the guy. When he came back to the street, she came at him with the car. I didn’t hear the car or the gunshot, but I heard over the radio that there were shots fired and that was terrifying because I didn’t know what had happened.
North Branford Patch: What is something you want people to know about being a dispatcher?
Dunphy: People should remember that there’s always a 911 operator here, 24 hours a day, to help them.
North Branford Patch: What do you plan to do with your retirement?
Dunphy: We love to travel so I plan on doing lots of that after I retire. I’m looking forward to spending more time with my grandchildren. I also plan on taking some college courses in business and computers to maybe start my own photography business. My husband will retire next July. We’ll stay in town until then, but maybe we’ll go to New Hampshire after that. I’m ready to relax.
North Branford Patch: What will you miss the most?
Dunphy: My friends here. One of the fellows has been here 25 years and another girl for over 20 so we’ve all been a family and I’ll miss all that. But I’ll come back and visit. I might even work here per diem after if they really need me. I’ll miss the craziness and people, but I’ll be enjoying some quiet time at home.
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