Synonymous with others who work in law enforcement, dispatchers typically work up to 12 hours each day collecting information from callers in need. No one has been doing it longer than Tangela McCorkle.
As Augusta’s 911 Communication Center’s longest serving dispatcher, Lt. McCorkle, 57, began working with the center at age 25. She is now in her 31st year there.
The job demands focus, punctuality and an understanding of emergency procedures that ensures safety for both the responder and the person in need, McCorkle said.
“We’re a part of making sure that they’re safe and getting the proper response to those in need, whether it’s medical, fire or the sheriff’s department,” she said. “So you can’t leave out little things that you think is not important.”
McCorkle said she sought the position to supplement her job as a temporary employee at Plant Vogtle. After working with the center for a year, she realized the position coincided with her ambition to help those in the community.
“I had no benefits or anything, so I heard about this position and applied for it and got the job, and after being there and being able to listen to the calls, hearing whether it was a tragedy or not, it just became a part of me,” she said. “I enjoy helping the citizens and wanted to be a part of making sure that they were safe.”
A familiar characteristic for most who work in this profession is “selflessness,” McCorkle said. But it’s not an easy.
“It requires that you put in hours to learn the trade and you have to have a different kind of spirit to reassure others that help is on the way,” she said.
The job can often bring stress when dealing with a tragedy. One such incident involved the death of a close friend.
“A personal friend of mine was robbed and killed,” she said. “I was working at that time, but I had to make sure that I maintained my composure and my professionalism.”
Daniel Dunlop, the director of Augusta’s 911 Center, said he believes dispatchers are often overlooked for their courage and ability to aide those in law enforcement during tragic situations.
“You may hear about incidents happening where deputies or firefighters are injured, or may have died in the line of duty,” he said. “But you also have to consider who’s on the other line of an emergency call.”
But the reward outweighs the negatives for McCorkle.
“It is very important that people understand there are guidelines that cannot and will not be crossed, essential renewals and in-service trainings that allow communications officers to deal with stress and strain,” she said. “The rewards are much more than monetary.”
McCorkle will celebrate 31 years of public service Oct. 21. She said her goals are to retire within the next year and to watch the center continue its growth.
“I’ve been able to see everyone come and go, and I’ve had the pleasure of being able to train some of them,” she said. “And I hope that with the training, guidance and experience that I have given to a lot of them, they become great officers.”