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Local dispatchers recognized nationally this week

By Greg Gelpi

She was scared, but she knew what to do.

Mikeria Morris, 5, tried to call out to her mother who lay on the floor unable to respond, but her daughter did respond by calling 911.

Her mother, Angela Morris, hurt her back lifting a 32-inch television and took Ibuprofen for the pain, not realizing that she is allergic to the medicine.

"I could not breathe and passed out," she said.

Mikeria admitted being scared, but said she felt much better when an ambulance arrived and revived her mother.

Her mother didn't realize that she knew about dialing 911, but she had learned it from Carlita Leonard and LaKissa Washington, her prekindergartner teachers at La Petite Academy in Riverdale.

"It made me feel like I was reaching them," Leonard said of learning that her lesson enabled Mikeria to save her mother's life.

Most would panic in such a situation, she said.

"She was real calm, had a sweet little voice," said Roy Dunn, the senior dispatcher who took the call.

Dunn said he just stayed on the phone, keeping her calm until an ambulance arrived on the scene.

This week is observed as National Telecommunicators Week, and the call was only one of many that dispatchers handled recently, from the seriousness of fatal shootings to the silliness of a man finding $13 in his front yard.

"It can be a stressful time, but I do like it," Clayton County police dispatcher Tonya Logan, 29, said. "You never know what to expect."

Logan said that her job is to act as the middle person between the public and emergency personnel, adding that in the position it's important to remain calm.

"We're human like anybody else, so we can be drawn into the emotion," she said. "Really we have to try to take the emotion out of the situation.

Despite that, Logan and co-worker Lori Greene, 26, said when the phone call ends, the emotions tend to come out.

"I was fine until I got off the phone then I broke down in tears," Greene said recalling a call involving her high school classmate shooting several people at Home Depot and then turning the gun on himself a few years ago.

She said she remains calm, putting herself in the situation of the caller in order to best serve them.

"We're one of the first ones they talk to, so we're one of the first ones to protect them," Greene said.

Logan and Greene said that calls from children are particularly difficult and emotionally draining.

"The most emotional calls I think are the ones involving children," Logan said. "The strange thing is that kids are a lot more mature than we give them credit for."

Greene, who has a 2-year-old child, said she just talks to young callers as if they were adults.

Amidst the flurry of assorted emergency calls, though, there is the occasional odd and even humorous call, she said. One woman calls daily reporting a mysterious green and black helicopter flying over her house. She even gives the license plate number.