Answering for the community

POCAHONTAS – Sid Enockson is seated at a work station lined with computer and video screens when a phone rings.

He picks up the receiver and calmly says “Pocahontas 911.” A few seconds later, he asks “OK, where’s he going?”

As soon as he ends that conversation, and hangs up the phone, another phone rings. He picks it up, and a repeat of his last exchange ensues. Then he swivels his chair toward a computer, uses the mouse to click on a rectangle on a monitor, and the distinctive notes of a dispatching tone going over the airwaves can be heard.

In less than five minutes, Enockson, the communications supervisor for the Pocahontas County Sheriff’s Office, has sent two ambulances to two different health care facilities to transfer patients to other locations where they can get more advanced treatment.

“Neither one of these is a really hot call,” Enockson said after dispatching the ambulances.

However, during 27 years as a dispatcher he’s handled calls that ranged from tragic to comical. On at least two occasions, people have died while they were on the phone pleading with him to send help.

“You just never forget that,” he said.

Enockson said he’s talked a woman through the process of performing CPR as she tried to revive a child who stopped breathing.

On another occasion, he answered a call for help from the victim of a home invasion and sexual assault. That situation led to a high-speed chase of the suspect’s fleeing vehicle. Enockson said the alleged attacker was captured.

“It came out OK,” he said.

Not all the calls he handles are life and death situations. Someone once called to report a camel running down Pocahontas County Road M65.

“I’m not drunk,” the caller told Enockson.

The veteran dispatcher didn’t need to be assured of the caller’s sobriety because he knew a farmer in that area owned a camel.

When a circus came to Pocahontas a few years ago, one of its monkeys got away, climbed a tree and began throwing things at people. That resulted in a call to the sheriff’s office. Enockson dispatched some deputies to the site. The deputies promptly called him on the phone, asking if the monkey business was some kind of joke.

“You can tell funny story after funny story about the animals,” he said.

For him, taking a 911 call from someone who is hysterical, calming them down, and getting the right assistance sent out is the most rewarding part of the job.

“It’s a high-stress job,” Enockson said. “I’ve been here 27 and a half years and I’ve seen it all and I’ve heard it all. It’s second nature after a while.”

“I love it,” he added. “It’s just in my blood.”

Years of experience have enabled Enockson to hone his technique for handling hysterical callers.

“You just develop a sense of calmness when you’re taking the call,” he said.

His workspace is a room in the Pocahontas County Courthouse crammed with electronics. There he dispatches sheriff’s deputies, plus all the fire departments, police departments, emergency medical units, conservation board rangers, and emergency management personnel in Pocahontas County. He also issues all the weather warnings, which come to the dispatch center directly from the National Weather Service.

“Literally everything goes through this center,” he said. “Sitting here, no matter what goes on in Pocahontas County, I’m in the middle of it.”

As communications supervisor, Enockson leads a staff of seven dispatchers. All the dispatchers are cross-trained as jailers and support the staff of the county jail, which is on the top floor of the courthouse.

Enockson said Pocahontas County dispatchers handle about 300 emergency calls a month. Most of them, he said, are for medical emergencies.

He’s completed a 40-hour dispatching class and 40 hours of training as a jailer. Both of those courses were completed at the Iowa Law Enforcement Training Academy in Johnston. He’s also taken a three-day course from the Iowa Department of Public Safety on the use of an electronic teletype system that links all the dispatch centers in the state. His training also includes CPR and first aid.

Additionally, he must complete 40 hours of continuing education every year.

Enockson has in the past been on the receiving end of emergency dispatches. He was a volunteer firefighter in Plover, a reserve deputy for 15 years and a member of the Pocahontas Community Hospital ambulance crew for 11 years.