This week GLAMoms is honored to feature Brittnei Torgerson. Brittnei has two daughters and resides in the Greater Lansing area with her husband and the youngest with her oldest nearby. Brittnei is a Public Safety Telecommunicator – or as most call her – a 911 dispatcher.
Brittnei works at Ingham County 911 Central Dispatch. And this week is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week!
Learn more about Brittnei, how she and a team of 20+ worked together on the night of February 13 providing service to not only the emergency response effort and the Michigan State community but listeners worldwide. Also how you can help in the reclassification of Dispatchers as First Responders because they currently are not.
Brittnei shares some mom ideas to keep your kids safe and how to prepare your child if they ever have to call 911 for help!
Welcome Brittnei – you are a total rockstar and we are so happy to share you here on Greater Lansing Area Moms!
Please introduce yourself
Hello! My name is Brittnei Torgerson. I grew up in Grand Ledge, Michigan and have lived in the surrounding Lansing area most of my life. After High School I took some classes at MSU and then eventually in 2007 I graduated with a 4.0 from Ferris State University with my Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice.
Before dispatch, I was a bartender and managed Barleys in South Lansing for 11 years.
I currently reside in Mason, Michigan with my husband Rex, my 8 year old daughter Delaney and our German Shepherd “Luna”. My 22 year old step daughter Jade is on her own now but still close to home.
What do you think is one of the best parts about being a mom?
I think the best part of being a mom are just the everyday memories. The time you laugh together until you cry over nothing in particular. The time you decide to put on the rain boots and play in the puddles after your yard floods. When after being asked several times you finally stop what you’re doing and color/paint/play with your child. Being “the mom” – the one she asks for when she is sick, when she can’t find something, when she has questions she is too embarrassed to ask, when she is tired, bored, confused, has “ouchies”, is sad, proud or lonely. Bedtime hugs, Christmas mornings, watching her grow and become an amazing young lady!
Would you share some mom wisdom for new moms you wish you would have known when you were a new mom?
So many things don’t matter. Nothing has to be perfect. Not you, not your baby, the clothes, the pictures, the food, your house, the bedroom. None of it matters in the end. Just spend time with your babies/kids and the dishes can wait. TAKE MORE PICTURES with YOU in them.
Please tell us more about being a Dispatcher?
I LOVE my job. Truly – not many people can say that. There are plenty of things I don’t LIKE about my job – but I LOVE my job. It is like riding a roller coaster every day. You never know if you will be so busy you can’t barely keep up or so slow the day drags on and on. You can be reading a book and 10 seconds later working a shooting or major accident.
We have several “positions” at the Dispatch center and each day we work a different spot. We have 4-5 Call takers on duty at all times. As a Call Taker you answer all the 911 and non-emergency police lines. With each call we have to determine the type of issue, the best response and then organize the information so the dispatcher can send the appropriate units. We are trained to ask a series of specific questions in order to get the information we need quickly all while keeping our responders safe.
We also have 4 dispatchers working in the “police pod”. The 4 police positions are broken down by department and geography. The dispatchers working police positions are responsible for monitoring calls coming in, dispatching the appropriate number/type of units to calls and documenting unit locations, actions, and comments. Dispatchers are responsible for updating units with critical officer safety information and prioritizing calls for service.
We also have 2 fire dispatchers and 1 dispatcher who monitors LEIN – Law Enforcement Information Network – which is the system that maintains drivers licenses, warrants and other information.
How many dispatchers work together at a given time and what shifts do you work?
At any given time there are at least 11 dispatchers and 1 supervisor working. During events such as MSU football games, Silver Bells in the City, or concerts there may be more. We have two shifts from 6am to 6pm and 6pm to 6am.
What is the coverage area or the Ingham County 9-1-1 Central Dispatch Center takes calls from?
The coverage area includes all of Ingham County. The townships of Lansing, Meridian, Alaeidon , Delhi, Vevay, Aurelius, Onondaga, Bunker Hill, Leroy, Locke, White Oak, Wheatfield, Ingham, Stockbridge, Leslie and Williamstown are all in our area. We answer all 911 calls and non-emergency calls for police departments that don’t have someone at their desk 24/7. We also can take emergency calls via text within our area.
How many calls do you take in a single shift?
It totally depends on how busy it is, what day it is, what shift you are on, and what is going on in the county. Weather, events, holidays all play a role in how busy we are. I would estimate a 100-120+ per shift per dispatcher. The Center takes between 1000-1200 calls a day.
You were working on February 13, 2023 – describe how you, your director and coworkers came together and calmly and effectively led emergency response efforts at Michigan State and then later in the City of Lansing?
That night is hard to describe. We all say that when “it” hits the fan that is when dispatch does what it does. That night was the “it” that we all knew could happen, probably would happen but hoped it never would. I was already home and in bed when I got the page for the tactical team. After some more information all 6 of us on the team headed toward the scene on MSU campus. It was determined that we needed to split up so 3 of us went straight to the center and started to answer the calls. There were 2200+ calls in a 5 hour span.
We typically have 11 dispatchers working. That night with extra employees and admin coming in and the tactical team being dispatched it was more like 24+. We literally ran out of consoles to work at. The director, admin members and several supervisors came in to help with the call load. We also had other dispatchers respond without being requested. They came in to answer phones or even bring drinks/snacks around to those who didn’t have any chance to go fill their water cup.
It was chaos – controlled chaos. In 10+ years I have never seen a call volume like that night. We all had to work together to get the information as quickly and accurately as we could in order to keep our responders and the public as safe as we could. The extra staff allowed us to manage the information more effectively and in the end the Lansing resident’s call led to the location of the shooter. Aimee did an AMAZING job as the “voice” of the call – the entire team worked together flawlessly in order to control that situation. There was no time to get upset, panic or over think. Our training kicked in and we did the best we could during a tragic situation.
For some people, February 13 was the first time they listened to a dispatcher as they worked and how a situation evolved. Aimee Barajas did an incredible job – how long does it take to become a dispatcher? At what point in a dispatcher’s career are they taking calls like the one Aimee did?
The overall training to become a dispatcher takes around a year to complete. Each position has its own training and is passed individually. Typically, dispatchers are trained and the LEIN and call taking position first, then move to police dispatching and finally fire dispatch. Honestly, a new dispatcher could have been in Aimee’s seat that night with only a few months of experience.
What place in the call center do people like to work most?
I would say typically dispatchers like Fire positions – not me – I prefer METRO SOUTH which is for Lansing Police Department (LPD) south end officers. I know the area the best, it is typically busy and I am most familiar with the LPD officers who work the south-end of Lansing..
What is one thing about being a dispatcher that a reader may be surprised to learn?
There are so many things. We work 365/24/7 holidays, weekends, birthdays, weddings, school events. We don’t close, we don’t have business hours, we work a ton of overtime. We are always here.
We don’t ask unnecessary questions. We are trained to ask specific questions that will get you the most appropriate response and keep you and our responders safe. Answering our questions is the fastest way to get you the help you need.
Dispatchers can/do suffer from PTSD from calls just the same as scene responders. We hear people’s worst days all day long. We hear the screams, cries, the gunshots and last breaths. It takes a toll on us emotionally, mentally and physically. PLEASE don’t ask us about our “worst” call – we don’t want to relive it any more than the victims do. If you want to know more ask about “good” calls or “funny” calls – they are a reminder of why we do this job.
How do you balance being a mom and your career?
With A LOT of help! I could not do this job without my amazing supportive husband. For the 8 years I worked nights, when Delaney was a baby – he was up with her all night when I was working. Our extended family is also essential in helping with child care and transportation. Evenings and days off are spent juggling normal mom duties – dishes, laundry, bills, packing lunches, doing homework etc. and time with my daughter. I try to make it a point to do something – play a game, go to the zoo, the park, shopping etc. when we have a day off together.
Here are a couple questions to get to know you better 🙂
We assume you drink coffee, how do you take it? – NOPE no coffee – straight Diet Coke addiction here
Last book you read? “You are a Badass Everyday” by Jen Sincero Currently reading “The Wish” by Nicholas Sparks
If you watch television, what is your favorite show? The Chicago Series – Chicago PD, FIRE and MED. Also Grey’s anatomy and The Resident
Strangest item in your “work bag” right now? A friendship bracelet making kit, construction paper, a container of pink salt, hot sauce, playing cards, an adult coloring book, police radio, and this years’ AND last years’ planner!
Do you like talking on the phone when you are not at work? Sometimes. I typically call my mom or sister on the way home to vent or catch up. If it is a day that I have worked phones and been busy, sometimes silence or VERY LOUD music is what I need on the way home.
The children’s book you most enjoy reading? Some of our all time favorites are “Goodnight moon”- Margaret Wise Brown and “Put me in the zoo” Dr. Seuss and currently getting into Junie B Jones books by Barbara Park
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A vet early on, then a doctor (until I took chemistry) then CSI Crime Scene Investigator
Favorite accounts you follow?
- Save with Chelsea
- Life as a Zebra Foundation
- Welcome to the Sandbar
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- and GLAM – duh 😊thanks Britteni
Any fun plans for the summer?
My little sister is getting married. Spending time off north at our “Cabbage” (Cabin + cottage = cabbage named by Delaney at 4 years old). Going to go to the Drag Race in Indianapolis over Labor Day weekend!
Where are some of your favorite places locally to spend time with your family/family favorites – restaurants, attractions, parks, trails, events, etc.?
Mind sharing a mom trick another mom will be happy to learn?
- BUY back ups of your child’s blankies/lovies for laundry time and God forbid losing them. HIDE them – they only come out for washing or in emergencies!
- When going anywhere large and public i.e. zoo, Disney, water park – Take a picture of your child THAT morning with the clothes they are wearing for the day. You can also write your name and phone number on a sticker/band aid and put it on your child’s wrist in case of getting lost. Teach them what to do if they can’t find you!
- Teach your children/adults their ADDRESS, CROSS STREETS and PHONE NUMBER. Explain 911 – We are not scary people – if they accidently call, stay on the line and get an adult! No one will get in trouble!
Where do we find more information about how others can help in the reclassification of dispatchers to First Responders?
The “911 Saves Act” is the legislation that would change our classification from admin/secretarial to protected first responders. The public can easily ask their member of the House of Representatives to co-sponsor the 9-1-1 Saves Act at this link https://act.seiu.org/onlineactions/Yq-nPBsbBk6kKp_ST_n_IQ2 This will direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to classify Dispatchers into the Protective Service Occupation Class.
Please tell us more about this reclassification.
This reclassification would give dispatchers better pay, better/more consistent training opportunities, better benefits and retirement. Will it occur? Lord, I hope so. I believe there is more attention on it now especially after the MSU shooting. I believe the ACT would have to work its way through the house and senate in order to make the change within OMB – classifying dispatchers in the same category as police and fire.
Last question, as we attempt to prepare our children for emergencies and reporting emergencies – what sort of information should callers try to have when they call 9-1-1?
Where are you? Specifically – without the WHERE we can’t help you. Knowing address, apartment number, city, cross streets will help us find you so much faster.
Teach your kids it is ok to call 911 in an emergency. We want to help – just talk to us so we can.
Britteni – WOW – you are amazing!
We hope this brings more attention to the need for Dispatchers to be classified as First Responders. Thank you for joining us and for all you and everyone at Ingham County 911 Central Dispatch continues to provide the Greater Lansing community
Where should we drop off treats for National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week?
Oh and your mom hints are perfect – thank you so much for sharing! 😊
All photos provided by Brittnei Torgerson