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Meet Coconino County Dispatcher Celeste Hansen

SIERRA FERGUSON Sunstaff Reporter

A couple rushed to the hospital with their baby in the middle of the night near Meteor Crater. On a dark roadside somewhere north of Flagstaff, a 911 dispatcher was talking to a new mother about childbirth and to her father about the process of tying an infant’s umbilical cord.

That 911 dispatcher was Celeste Hansen.

Her voice is casual and soft when she tells the story.

“They had the baby in the van before first responders arrived. When I checked later, all the lawmakers were saying, ‘I’m glad I didn’t have to have the baby.’ I’m glad I was able to do that,” she said with a warm smile.

It’s as if she’s telling you which groceries she bought on Saturday morning or who she chatted with behind the shopping cart. Her phrasing is soothing that it sounds as if they are all commonplace.

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In a way, for an emergency communications specialist who has been with us for 19 years, things like that are no surprise. Hansen’s voice has played a key role in many people’s darkest hours, or most formative moments. I’ve been helping her.

But Hansen didn’t always want to be a dispatcher.

“Actually, I used to be a travel agent, so it’s quite the opposite, but I always wanted to help people in some way,” Hansen said. After seeing me multitasking as a travel agent, someone said to me, ‘Hey, you should be a dispatcher.'”

That comment stuck with Hansen, eventually prompting her to enroll in the Flagstaff Citizen’s Police Academy, where she learned there was a vacancy in the dispatch.

“I love talking to people, so I love answering the phone more than anything else,” said Hansen. “I don’t like being in the limelight, so I like being behind the scenes.”

But her voice played a central role in multiple stressful situations. is dispatched to Sometimes response times are slow, requiring Ms. Hansen to speak to callers through her CPR or work with people who have lost their way to inform first responders of her location.

“It was hard at times, but last year… I helped a woman. , she and her husband found him,” said Hansen.

A man was trapped in a truck.

“I told her I need to find rocks, I have to find anything to break this window. Pull them out,” she said.

She then told the caller and her husband about the process of administering CPR to an unconscious relative. The couple took turns trying to resuscitate the man, and he was alive when the first responders arrived.

Hansen later learned that the man had survived.

“It’s kind of a miracle because they were in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know how long he was on the pill before that,” she said.

Telling people to break windows, explaining CPR procedures, and even calming people down by talking about their interests are all things Hansen did.

“You have to think outside the box,” she said.

This can sometimes seem to explain to non-native English speakers the need to find shoelaces or laces to tie the umbilical cord after giving birth to a baby in a van. The results of these calls keep Hansen moving.

“The joy in their voices, how happy and excited they were,” she said.

But work isn’t always fun.

“Kids are a particularly difficult call, but can you tell that you helped them in any way or that you were there? There have been numbers, they’re upset but they’re really brave,” Hansen said. “You’re just thinking, ‘They’re so brave, so I have to be brave for them and help them as much as I can.'” Please do not become They don’t need any more stress, so you’ll want to do everything you can for them. “

The domestic violence calls are personal to Hansen. They are her one of the first elements she was drawn to Dispatch.

“I had a friend who was involved in a domestic violence situation. I wanted to find

Having a helpful voice on the other side of a 911 call is not an easy task. Answering calls and coordinating with first responders can be stressful.

“You have to be able to answer the phone, type, listen and speak, and talk on the radio at the same time. , there are certain call receptionists and certain people who operate the radio, we are a small center so we have to do everything,” she said.

Hansen has spent much of his career in the “graveyard” shift. She works holidays and weekends and regularly works 40+ hours per week. Hansen said burnout is a common problem in dispatch, and she “needs to find someone who can handle it,” she said.

Hansen has learned over time that self-care is important and one of the keys to her career longevity.

“You have to learn to take care of yourself, which is very difficult. I’m definitely not a pro, but I’ll try. I’m trying to be able to recognize, “That was a really bad call.” i need to talk to someone about it. I learned it the hard way,” said Hansen.

She also keeps a notebook of good calls that help her think about the good things that happen in her day and the positive impact she can make.

Hansen recommends multitaskers like himself consider a career in temporary staffing, but with a few caveats.

“You have a strong desire to help people. Because you’re not going to get a lot of pats on your back or accolades. You’re not going to get it, so you can’t be someone who needs that recognition all the time “You get a sense of job fulfillment from the people on the other end of the phone. You definitely need to be a multitasker and be able to compartmentalize. Keep it on your doorstep.” You can’t wear your heart on your sleeve all the time – if that makes sense.

She also offers some advice for members of the public who may be emergency callers.

“Know your place. It’s very important, especially if you’re traveling outside your hometown or city. Trust your gut. , I don’t think this is a safe place.

Hansen also encourages people to be patient with dispatchers.

“Many people are impatient to call 911 and we ask them a lot of questions. It’s about knowing what’s going on.

Sierra Ferguson can be reached at

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