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Serve & Protect: Dispatcher Sarah Hines

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Sarah Hines is multi-lingual.

English, of course.

French.

German.

Japanese.

And, emergency dispatch.

Yes, the codes and signals used by emergency personnel to communicate over the radio can easily be considered another language.

Training to become a public safety dispatcher involves learning what people are saying, what people aren’t saying, how they are saying it and what the actually mean, Hines said.

“That’s all built into learning linguistics and this is in effect is another language,” said Hines, who has been a dispatcher for 20 years and is a shift supervisor at the communications center. “You’re learning codes and signals and how to speak ‘police-y’. You need to learn to speak law enforcement, you need to learn their speech ... When I started here it really was like learning another language. So, it was not a great leap.”

Hines graduated from Western Boone High School in 1993, then went to Purdue University, where she earned her master’s degree in French in 2000, but also studied German and Japanese.

After graduation she was considering a variety of jobs in New York City where many of the major national and international companies were in need of multi-lingual people.

“I actually had some things set up to go, and I would have been working in the Twin Towers, and that was right before 9-11,” she said. “I actually had to make a decision — do I want to go to the big city and have a big time job and make a lot of money or do I want to stay with my family that I love.”

She chose family.

“Then 9-11 happened, and I thought that was providential,” Hines said.

Hines then saw an employment ad in the newspaper for the dispatch job.

She worked briefly as a secretary with a popcorn company while she completed her dispatcher training.

“Training took about three months when I started,” she said. “There was some classroom work, but basically you came and sat next to a dispatcher and watched and did it slowly, adding a little more each day, starting with non-emergency calls and working your way into emergency calls.”

She welcomed the challenges that come with the job — the multi-tasking, the quick-thinking and the chance to help others.

“I get frustrated when my brain isn’t challenged,” Hines said. “I’m a voracious reader, I like living in different worlds, anything to keep my brain active. With this job there’s always something different ... it can get so busy sometimes, it’s like managing a circus.”

Hines also enjoys her co-workers. They are a team.

She likes helping others, especially the officers, medics or firefighters as they work to resolve issues on the scene.

“I love my mini-detective moments, when I feel like I’ve done something to help ... when that happens I can say I’ve had a good day,” she said.

When her 12-hour shift ends at 5 a.m., she heads to Crawfordsville High School where she swims laps for about an hour.

“I do a very relaxing, slow paced swim and listen to an audio book to decompress, then I go home and I can sleep,” she said.

She attends the Church of Christ on Englewood, where her father, Robert, is the preacher. Her family also includes, mother Mary and two brothers, Jim of Elmdale and John of Columbus, Indiana.

Hines typically reads science fiction, romance and fantasy novels, but quickly added that she reads anything she can get her hands on. She also is an author of adventure and romance books. She has three self-published books available on Amazon.

Hines enjoys being outdoors as much as possible, and grows dwarf fruit trees. She has 40 different varieties in her yard on the city’s east side.

“It’s really a mini-orchard, so I will go out and work in the yard a lot,” she said. “I have the fattest squirrels in neighborhood.”

Hines admits she has not had to use her French, German or Japanese language skills on the job — yet. However, you never know what call will come in next to the dispatch center.

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