A Guiding Voice in the Night


Dispatcher answers the call in an emergency

Kristen Fell is a night owl. She is on the phone from 10 at night to 10 the following morning. She isn’t chatting with other night owls. Fell is the calm, collective voice you hear during an emergency. She is an emergency dispatcher at Ingham County 911 Central Dispatch.

Fell has been taking emergency calls for the past 16 years. She works the night shift. It isn’t a job she envisioned having in 2003 but now finds it rewarding.

“It’s not even a career I started out thinking about,” Fell recalled. “I think that’s common. Not a lot of people think about 911 unless they need to make the call. But once I got in and went through the training program, I was hooked.”

The position is a rewarding one, Fell said. She has a role in bringing the criminal element to justice or helping someone during an emergency.

“You always hear the cliché, that you get to help people, but it really is true,” Fell said. “We get busy as a team and it really is amazing how the team gets together, works together to solve the problem. It is very rewarding when you’re able to catch the bad guys or help someone out.”

She said the types of crime usually change once the sun goes down.

“We have a different kind of busy on the night shift than the busy the day shift has,” Fell explained. “The day shift is definitely busy as well, even though they can see bank robberies and that kind of crime during the day. But at night we see more of the drunk people, fights, shootings and break-ins.”

There are challenges as well.

“One obvious challenge is we are a 24/7 operation, so you work holidays, birthdays and weekends on the night shift,” Fell said. “We also go through technical challenges, like the computers going down and we need to get them fixed immediately. But we still have to handle the calls.”

And on full-moon nights?

“The full moon definitely affects crime,” she said laughing. “It does seem to have an effect on the general population, and we tend to be busier during a full moon.”

Fell said anyone interested in becoming an emergency dispatcher should consider taking the video exam, which helps determine if an applicant has what it takes to respond to emergency situations and help find a resolution.

Requirements for the dispatching position include being a high school graduate and typing 35 words a minute. Candidates also will undergo a background check.

“Knowing the geography is also a big help,” Fell said. “We have an academy to teach you what you need to know – the 10-code, phonetic alphabet, all that.”

To see if positions are available, visit 911.ingham.org and click on employment.


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