In the high stress world of being a 911 dispatcher the average length of service is between one and two years.
In the high stress world of being a 911 dispatcher the average length of service is between one and two years. Sgt. Patricia “Trish” Lien has that beat five times over.
March 1, 2018, she had served 10 years as a 911 dispatcher, that’s got to be an impressive record. She adds that with all the overtime she’s worked in the past decade, it’s more like 13 years instead of 10. Each week two dispatchers work at a time, three to four 12-hour shifts each week. Only the 911 Coordinator Starr Klemetsrud and Sarah Britton, who is a lieutenant, have more seniority than Lien and outrank her.
The crew of 10 dispatchers at the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center provide police, fire and ambulance dispatch service for five counties which include Ramsey, Nelson, Benson, Eddy and Towner counties. Lien is a 1999 graduate of Devils Lake High School who after working for the Comfort Inn for eight years knew she wanted a change. She spotted an ad in the Devils Lake Journal for a job opening in dispatch at the LEC and thought she would try for it. “I was so nervous I ironed four different outfits getting ready for my interview,” Lien recalls with a laugh.
Through her work in dispatch she has had specific training in cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) instructions and Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) certification. She can give life-saving instructions to callers to administer while they wait for the ambulance to arrive. She’s also trained in childbirth instructions and what to do if someone is potentially having a stroke. Ten years later she is confident, capable and ready to handle anything that comes her way. “You learn how to talk to people when they call in, you do whatever you think in the moment and ask a lot of questions,” she explained. She recalled one time talking to a male individual who said he had a gun to his head, ready to end his life. Lien was able to convince him to get some help and not to pull the trigger. That call had a successful outcome. She says that’s the most rewarding part of her job, when there is a good result, although often they rarely hear about what happens afterwards. “You take it as you go,” she explained. “Every day is different.”
The hardest calls to deal with? Lien admitted the toughest calls are when children are involved. That may be partially due to the fact that she has three of her own, aged 12, 10 and 3. As a single mother she gives credit to her family and ex-husband for all their support and encouragement.
She deals with the stress in her life, from her job and so on, by cleaning. Yes, she says cleaning her home helps her deal with the day-to-day stress and once everything is clean, then she moves on to Do It Yourself (DIY) projects. Recently she finished redoing her kitchen. One room at a time, she plans on tackling the entire house. Even while on the job Lien says there are ways to help deal with the stress. Recently she started working with another dispatcher who is trying to lose weight, so together they take “breaks” and do some fitness exercises right there in dispatch. It keeps them sharp and ready for whatever comes their way she explained. Sometimes there is a great deal of “down time” between calls so she spends a lot of time on the Internet, learning new things, something she says she enjoys a great deal. When she’s not working she is one busy person, of course, parenting her three children, but she is also an artist, painting with acrylics, a style called “dirty cup,” one of those things she learned how to do on the Internet. She also enjoys camping, boating and traveling.
Trish’s mom is former Devils Lake resident Laurie Reinhart who now lives in Edgeley, ND and her father is Corey Ames, Devils Lake.