Tazewell County 911 celebrates 25 years of service

Apr. 14—TAZEWELL, Va. — A 911 dispatcher who remembers the days when she had to use paper maps because there were no computers and ask for phone numbers because there was no caller ID was recognized along with her peers Wednesday when the Tazewell County 911 celebrated its 25th year of operations.

The Tazewell County 911 Center started operations on April 23, 1997. To celebrate the approaching anniversary, current dispatchers and their retired colleagues were treated to a luncheon at the adjoining Tazewell County Sheriff's Office.

Christina Shinall, 25-year-veteran of the 911 center, received special recognition including a crystal award and Senate of Virginia Resolution. Senator Travis Hackworth, R-Tazewell County, visited the celebration to present Shinall with Senate Resolution No. 63.

Shinall is a certified emergency medical technician and previously worked as a volunteer medic and ambulance driver for the Richlands Rescue Squad, Hackworth read from the resolution. She joined the Tazewell County 911 Center as a dispatcher in 1997 as a dispatcher and helped guide the center through significant growth and technological advances over the years, having started at a time when the center had only two dispatch consoles and no computerized maps or call logs.

Sheriff Brian Hieatt said that while some dispatchers have lasted only a day because of the often stressful job, Shinall has served with the 911 center for all of its 25 years.

"I was one of the very first ones," Shinall recalled. "I was working part time. I first started in 1997, and I became full time in April of 1999; and I've been here ever since. I just love the job. It's just always something different, always something unexpected or new. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. It's just something that I enjoy. I didn't think I would when I first started, but I do love it."

Shinall remembers the very first day when the county's 911 center went into operation.

"We had a lot of people calling just to make sure that it worked," she said."We had a lot of elderly males and females that would call and just say we're OK today, we're doing fine, we're just making sure it works and that somebody would be there. and it was just nice to let them know we were there if they needed us."

Hieatt said that the 911 center has been doing a lot of special activities this week not only because it's the center's 25th anniversary, but because it's also National Telecommunicators Week. The anniversary was also a good time to recognize Shinall for her years of service.

"We just think this is quite an accomplishment, because to be a 911 dispatcher is such a stressful job; so much goes on and so much is expected, and to do that job for 25 years straight. and she has done an awesome job," Hieatt said of Shinall's career.

Randy Ann Davis, the 911 center's director, presented Shinall with the award recognizing her 25 years of service.

Davis remembered the times when dispatchers had to use books full of paper maps and maps up on the wall to find callers' locations. These maps didn't include home numbers or any of the information that's more readily available today thanks to computers. Dispatchers had to use regular office phones when the center first opened, but today they have headsets that let them walk around the dispatch center and serve callers at the same time.

Hieatt said that the center now has "top of the line" technology.

Chief Deputy Major Harold Heatley remembered how Shinall, who he refers to as Chrissy, and other dispatchers have helped him and others in law enforcement for years.

"When I first started in law enforcement with Virginia and was with the Town of Tazewell, Chrissy was one of the dispatchers who touched my life," Heatley said. "I had about seven of them that really had an impact. Chrissy is one of my all-time favorites. I love her to death."

"To talk about the lives that she's touched, not only the citizens, the people who have called in distress that she's dealth with, but the deputies and the officers and the troopers and the fire and the EMS folks you have had contact with; in all my years, I have never had anybody to say a negative thing about Chrissy, and I mean that," he said.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com