DISPATCHER WEEK: Shannan McLaughlin and her team at E-911 provide a helping voice

Published 6:45 pm Monday, April 15, 2024

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EDITOR’S NOTE: In recognition of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, the Daily News will be highlighting some of the dispatchers at Troup County 911 who are the first, first response when emergency help is needed. To kick off the week, we’re highlighting E-911 Director Shannan McLaughlin.

While she serves as 911 director now, McLaughlin has put in her years as a dispatcher before eventually being promoted to lead the agency.

“I’ve been doing this for 14 years total and I absolutely love it,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said being a 911 dispatcher is not for everybody, noting some people can’t handle it emotionally.

“It’s kind of a calling,” McLaughlin said. “It’s either for you or it’s not.”

McLaughlin said sometimes new dispatchers come in and are able to learn how to do the job but they just can’t take it.

“You hear God awful things,” she said. “I’ve had them come in here and say, ‘This job is just not for me,’ ‘I can’t separate myself from it.’ ‘I’m going home, I’m drinking every day.’ If you can’t separate yourself from it then this is not for you.”

McLaughlin said others thrive in the high-stakes environment and love working as a 911 dispatcher. For them, it’s a calling and they enjoy the rewarding feeling of helping people in emergencies.

She said every dispatcher is going to have those emotional calls that they can’t get over, but the ones who last can separate themselves from it.

“Don’t get me wrong. You’ll have those calls that bother you,” McLaughlin said. “I have calls that I remember from 13 years ago. They’ll always be with me.”

Forgetting the bad calls is not from lack of trying. Sometimes they are brought back up by people outside the office.

“[People] say, tell me your worst call. We hate to hear that. We hate that question. You don’t want to hear my worst call. You don’t want to hear it. We try to put those worst calls in the back of our minds because we have nightmares about those calls. We don’t want to remember those calls. We want to remember the good calls and the good outcomes.”

Overall the job is really rewarding, McLaughlin said.

“We not only deal with police and fire units, keeping them safe and making sure they come home every day but we dispatch calls at the same time as well,” McLaughlin said.

The most rewarding calls are when they can help save a child’s life, she said.

“Those are the calls where you hear the screaming mothers and they need to do CPR on their kids. We teach them to do CPR and the outcome is good for the babies or the children because they survive.”

McLaughlin said one of her proudest calls was helping lead paramedics to a woman who had just given birth but she didn’t know where she was. She said she was able to help them get there by coordinating with first responders by listening to a dog barking over the call. McLaughlin said calls with mothers in labor are always particularly exciting for the office.


“We’re like yeah, we’re going to have a baby!” she said.

She said on the other hand, calls from an officer for emergency assistance put them on edge.

“You don’t know what’s going on with them. What’s going to happen? So we’re on the edge of our seats making sure they’re getting the help they need. It has the full attention of the room. Those are the calls that get us the most,” McLaughlin said.