HAMILTON TOWNSHIP -- After three decades, a 911 dispatcher in Monroe County has hung up the phone for the final time.
Even though a dispatcher's job may be behind the scenes, Jeffery Ward was the first voice someone heard when they dialed 911 for help.
Ward started as a dispatcher in the basement of the Monroe County Courthouse using paper to track emergency calls. Now after 30 years, he is deciding to ride into the sunset on his own terms.
Ward became a dispatcher back in 1987.
"It was more helping people on this end – 911, police, fire, and ambulance --and their emergencies, sending out the proper responses," said Ward.
Ward says he's lost count on how many phone calls he's taken after decades of service.
He tells Newswatch 16 that while dispatchers can't get too attached to every single emergency, he had to be calm and compassionate for the person on the other end of the phone, some of them in life or death situations.
"We are the first line of defense for people when they call 911 and we have to come reassure them that they have help on the way," he said.
Gary Hoffman is the director of communications at the Monroe County Control Center. He says the job is highly stressful but the goal every day is to do what you can do without any harm.
"You have to be careful but you still have to be compassionate," said Hoffman. "You can't get engaged with the caller but you need to have some compassion for what's going on and Jeff exemplifies that amongst all of our staff."
One of the lasting memories Ward will always remember was when the command center received thousands of calls during the Eric Frein manhunt. Not only did they receive calls about Frein, they also had to worry about other emergencies.
"Them tracking him and getting calls about possible sightings and because of the length of time it took trying to track him down and arrest him," he recalled.
Ward is excited the get away from the stress of taking hundreds of phone calls each day. He's looking forward to spending time with family.