Cheryl Stoffregen answers many calls at 911 communications center

Monday, June 28, 2010
Cheryl Stoffregen works in 911 Communications for the City of Cape Girardeau. (Kristin Eberts)

After 15 years on the job as a telecommunicator, 51-year-old Cheryl Stoffregen, who works in 911 Communications for Cape Girardeau, can't stand to hear a phone ring more than once.

Her job forces her to be a multitasker, Stoffregen said, and each call, whether an emergency or not, requires quick thinking. The Cape Girardeau 911 communications center receives up to 1,900 emergency calls per month.

Her supervisor, Kim Conway, said Stoffregen's knowledge of the Cape Girardeau area is extremely helpful to the communications crew. Stoffregen, a native of the city, knows the city's layout well.

Q: Why did you choose to be part of this 911 communications team?

A: My husband ... was in law enforcement a long time, in the early 1980s. ... I saw a little bit of it then. But, at that time, I could not do shift work. Later, I saw they were taking applications and it sounded like an interesting job.

Q: What's your work schedule like and what are your daily duties?

A: My schedule has to be flexible. I normally work as a third person, a floating shift during the day. I usually come in a little later and work later, sometimes 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and cover the busy time.

We answer 911, we answer any incoming calls for service for police and fire. We answer phones for other departments in the city after business hours. We take care of police radio [and] fire radio. We transfer [medical service calls] to the ambulance service, but we dispatch the fire department for first responders.

We do all the paper work on warrants that are in the computers, stolen articles and towed vehicles.

Q: Tell me about what's important when taking a 911 call.

A: People call in and sometimes they're hysterical, sometimes they're in shock and we still have to get the information as to what happened, where they're at and whether there are suspects there, depending on the kind of call. We have to have the information critical to the officers responding, for example, as far as weapons. The main thing for us to remember is to remain calm and try to calm them down. Sometimes it's impossible.

Q: Is it difficult to stay organized when you take so many calls per day?

A: Our calls, when we take them, most of the information is entered right then. We'll get a call and most of it involves typing it in as we get it. We type the address, phone number and as soon as I create it, [dispatchers] can see what I've done.

Usually, whoever is taking the call isn't the same person who's giving it out. So we have be clear, not just quick. It's a lot of quick thinking. ... We have to multitask because we may be on the business phone and if police and fire are both out, we're on the radio and if 911 is ringing, it has to be answered immediately.

Q: What's the most rewarding part of your job?

A: Working with people and just ... it's like we've had robberies and we've caught the [suspect] in a short amount of time. That's always satisfying. We deal with such a wide variety of calls. Sometimes, we get calls from citizens that are just needing information and then you get the missing child or a different type of call.

Q: Did your education include training in this field?

A: No, most of our job is on-the job training. We do have to be certified through the state and the highway patrol for communications and Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES), which is the computer system we use for running driver's licenses, vehicles, and warrants. Then we have to be recertified every two years. I'm also one of the training officers to train new people.

Q: Do you remember when you first started here and what was the hardest thing to learn?

A: It's just the mass amount of knowledge you have to have. You have understand the police you have to understand the fire and how they work, plus, all the computer work and you have to know the city. It's not as bad now, because we have a map system. We just added this in the last two years. Before that we didn't have a map on our [computer] screen; we had a book we grabbed every time we had a call if we needed it. The calls were pretty much divided by the police zones, but there were times we'd have people where we wouldn't know where they were at.

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent Address:

1975 N. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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