Marshall County’s E-911 team cool under pressure

Team has ‘heart of a lion’

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY Supervisor Tiffany Eibs, Angie Duffy, director Rhonda Braudis, Zac Mann and Sharon Santiago stay warm on Thursday in the Marshall County E-911 Communications Center.

Marshall County Communications Commission director Rhonda Braudis celebrated her six month anniversary on the job.

She is thrilled with the support received from fire and police departments throughout the county and from commissioners in achieving that mini-milestone.

Regardless, her key focus Thursday was on her team of 12 operators — soon to be 14.

“I sat in with them before I started July 22 of last year,” Braudis said. “The women and men who dispatch for the commission are amazing. They have the heart of a lion.”

Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper said E-911 communications operators, frequently referred to as dispatchers, have the toughest job in law enforcement.

Their task: Accurately dispatch deputies, firemen and police officers when seconds count and lives hanging in the balance.

Also, they are responsible for keeping track of more than 1,000 arrest warrants and no contact orders.

Five months of training is required before an operator can start on the job. Otherwise, graduation from high school or a GED are required.

During her career, Braudis has had callers commit suicide during the call and people have perished from fires and other disasters while on the phone for help.

“Operators frequently are dealing with people that are having the worst, or most stressful day of their life,” Braudis said.

While those incidents are sobering, she said she was excited to learn a young child she had once helped in an emergency situation had become an EMT.

“She was so impressed with how the EMTs responded to help her family she became one herself,” Braudis said.


Since Aug. 30, operators have been housed in the new joint fire and police facility in the 900 block of South Second Street.

They have the most up-to-date communication equipment at their disposal in taking emergency calls from Marshall County residents while dispatching emergency responders and UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown ambulances.

Marshall County Emergency Management Coordinator Kim Elder said larger monitors and enhanced technology at the new facility has made a dispatcher’s job easier with improved communication with emergency responders.

“The difference between the new and old facility equipment is night and day,” Elder said. “More and larger screens means the dispatchers will not have to flip from screen to screen as often”

Their safety was also taken into consideration as well.

In the event of severe weather, hurricane-resistant metal screens will lower to cover several windows.

Dispatchers now have lockers, a lunch room and kitchen since they are required to remain at the center for their entire 12-hours shift.

“We have a lot of ‘team’ cooking here,” Braudis said. “It is good food and good for morale.”

Governing board

The Marshall County Communications Commission is comprised of Marshall County town mayors and designees, along with Marshall County Sheriff Steve Hoffman and Marshall County Supervisor Bill Patten.

Hoffman is the commission chairman.

What led to that change was implementation of a different funding formula. All E-911 expenses — from salaries to equipment to supplies — are paid from a levy applied to every property in the county.

This levy will appear on each property owner’s tax bill.

Previously, E-911 expenses were paid with a 38 percent levy applied to county residents and 62 percent to city residents. That was based on Marshall County’s census data showing 38 percent of the county’s population lived in rural areas, while 62 percent lived in Marshalltown. Additionally, telephone land line and cell phone users also paid a fee listed on the telephone or cell phone carrier’s customer bill.

For more information, contact Braudis at 641-754-4750 or rbraudis@marshalltown-ia.gov


Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com


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