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A Day in the Life: Phyllis Dunphy, NBPD Dispatcher

Meet Phyllis Dunphy, who has been a voice behind emergency calls for the past 29 years.

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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Concerned April 26, 2012 at 12:25 PM
I agree with Betty...Phyllis has done an outstanding job for North Branford and she has earned her retirement after almost 30 years on the job. Yes, the other officers who "retired" did retire, but immediately went to work elsewhere. Most in the same field of work. One is working as a police officer in the next town over. Another a few towns away. A few have been trained by North Branford, put in a few years and left to go to other towns. My questions is this...why all of a sudden have the senior officers who have reached their 20 years and can retire suddenly decided now is the time to go? Usually the thinking is "I've put in my time, have the seniority, and can look forward to advancement and/or better positions within the department". I guess this is not the case and they can all see the handwriting on the wall and are taking their early retirements and staring over where they might have a chance of being recognized for the job they do instead of who's a** they kiss. Just my observation of many years in town.
North Branford for life April 26, 2012 at 12:42 PM
If you look at it like you should be... The officers retiring are leaving after 25 years of service..that's a long time. And if you ask them why they left and IF they are honest instead of "stirring the pot" ...they will tell you that they left to receive their retirement pension and get a job elsewhere so they can live a bit more comfortably. If they stayed at the police department they would be working for half their money. Why not leave and collect half your money while collecting a full salary from another job. It's people like concerned that speak about things when they actually have no clue what the truth is. And you asked why "all of a sudden they decide to go?" hmmm...if you researched it a little...you'd see, "all of a sudden" these officer have reached their eligibility date for retirement. It really isn't that difficult to figure out. As will another officer in July and another in December and then another in July of 2013. And from what I am told, they are leaving for the same reason, to collect their pension and work elsewhere to make a salary.
Mary Poppins April 26, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Why doesn't the Town of North Branford do exit polling on its employees when they leave like my company does? I bet that would be a real eye opener. I guess the both of you are hearing different things....I would really like to know the truth. But it does beg the question as to if what North Branford for life is saying is true, why doesn't (didn't) everybody work their required time and get out? Seems only to be happening in the Police Department.
Phyllis Dunphy April 26, 2012 at 08:01 PM
I really am leaving because i am now 65 and it is time. We work without a lunch break or any other break either. It is a stressfull job and it has gotten much worse in the last few years. The town is growing and there is a need for a second dispatcher, but the town wont spend the money. I want to spend time with my family, weekends and holidays. Only someone who does these kinds of jobs will understand fully the problems the hours and other factors create. I love this town, and will still live here for as long as we can afford to.
Candydandy30 April 26, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Amen Phyllis! Every study I've seen says how awful the job is for the hours, shift work, health wise, stress, etc., and yet there are still people like you who choose to come to work this job everyday. Everyone in your community should mind their own, be glad you were there, and thank God if they never needed you. Please enjoy your retirement.

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