NORMAN — Dispatchers could be heard in the background answering calls Sunday evening as Emergency Communications Supervisor Cindy Howard sat in her office for an interview before she started her shift.
Howard was recently awarded 2014 Dispatcher of the Year by the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, who celebrated 25 years of the 9-1-1 System in central Oklahoma this year.
The award is a distinction presented to a dispatcher in Central Oklahoma for their professionalism and unrelenting dedication to public safety.
Howard, born and raised in Meeker, began working as a dispatcher when she was 23 at the Prague Police Department. She later worked for Lincoln and Pottowatomie counties, the Shawnee Police Department and then the Norman Police Department. She has been with the City of Norman for 14 years.
“I just love it,” she said. “I can’t see myself doing anything else. It’s different everyday and you’re helping people.”
At one point she tried to quit dispatching after she had her son, but she said she only made it for about six months before she had to go back.
“I’m an adrenaline junky,” she said with a laugh.
Howard has been through a lot of changes in here career from starting off in a smaller department where all of the calls were written with paper and pencil, to toning out and assigning the fire department and EMS to calls.
It wasn’t until she came to Norman, after 11 years of experience, that she even had any formal training. Howard said she is currently serving on several committees to help get all dispatchers in Oklahoma formal training and eventually make it a state mandate.
“A communications manager from another agency explained it to me one time. He said ‘you have to have some astronomical amount of hours — 480 hours or something — to cut someone’s hair. To sit down and be a dispatcher you have to have zero,” she said.