IONIA COUNTY CENTRAL DISPATCH: 4 recognized for lifesaving actions

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9-1-1 operators Wittenbach, Hearld, Heydenburk, Ketchum receive ‘Smart911 Save’ awards

IONIA COUNTY — Four 9-1-1 dispatchers are being honored for their role in averting potential tragedy in an incident May 10 by using Smart911.

Jeremiah Wittenbach, Natalie Hearld, Kathy Heydenburk and Mike Ketchum, all with Ionia County Central Dispatch, were each recognized with a “Smart911 Save” Wednesday.

Smart911 is a free program that allows residents to set up safety profiles for their households, which provide essential information to first responders — including 9-1-1 dispatchers — in the event of an emergency. In this case, a profile may have saved a life.

Director Jim Valentine said the dispatchers’ actions were a real-life example of the “tremendous teamwork” that happens at Central Dispatch every day.

“All had a key part in using that information in the Smart911 profile to prevent injury or death,” he said. “We’re so thrilled we can offer this service to residents.”

Wittenbach took the initial 9-1-1 call at 8:50 a.m. While no one spoke to him, he heard a male voice in the background that he thought sounded aggressive and hostile. A Smart911 profile associated with the cell phone number popped up on Wittenbach’s computer screen, with dispatcher notes from seven previous calls from this number. The last one, entered by Hearld, was associated with a domestic dispute call. Because she had included an address, and an apartment number, in her note, Wittenbach could dispatch police to the exact location of the emergency.

Meanwhile, Heydenburk researched the cell phone number in the Central Dispatch database to locate the previous domestic call. She found it, and confirmed that the address where officers were headed was correct.

When the phone call disconnected, Wittenbach tried to call back but got no response. Moments later, Ketchum received a Text to 9-1-1 call from the same phone number, asking for help. He radioed police and asked them to pick up their pace. Officers arrived quickly and secured the scene before anyone was hurt — or worse.

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