Southfield 911 dispatchers send care packages to Sante Fe

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They handle stressful situations for a living, but when local 911 dispatchers saw the recent school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, they felt compelled to take action and help their colleagues from hundreds of miles away.

After 28 years on the job, Southfield 911 Dispatcher Debra Rice has handled any crisis you can imagine with a headset.

"This is about teamwork so any situation we get into, we rely on each other," she said.

Teamwork became even more apparent to her earlier this month during the shooting at Santa Fe High School.

"We were monitoring the situation here in our communications center, what was going on in Santa Fe, and we saw through social media that they only have one dispatcher working per shift," Rice said. "That was something we couldn't conceive of doing.

That's right -- one 911 operator trying to coordinate hundreds of first responders, and field a nonstop flood of phone calls. 

Rice says everyone with a cell phone was probably calling that day. She knew she had to do something.

"We talked amongst ourselves and got together every single one of dispatchers donated something to go into this box to send to Santa Fe. We called it our box of love, support and snacks," Rice said.

The 15 dispatchers at Southfield 911 stepped up to show support for their colleagues, still reeling from the intensity of the shooting that left 9 students and 1 teacher dead. Their care packages are expected to arrive this week. Rice says she's looking forward to hearing when it arrives.

Rice has an unofficial job here, too. Whenever there is a tragedy around the country - or even here at home in another dispatch center - she reaches out in some small way.

"An officer dying, or a dispatcher being sick, we usually send a card, a sympathy card," Rice said.

This soon-to-be retiree couldn't be more humble; she's a reminder to think of these behind-the-scenes heroes.

"We have families, we have children. We go through a lot of the same things our callers go through, and it hits a lot of all of us. We wouldn't be doing this job if we didn't have empathy for the caller."