Service is a tradition in Taylor Kinney’s family. Her grandfather was a police officer, her stepfather and brother-in-law were firefighters.
All her life, she listened to their stories, so it was no surprise when she decided to follow her grandfather and use her degree in criminal justice to consider becoming a police officer.
“I was always interested in law enforcement,” she said. “That was before I became a mom.”
Kinney channeled her experience and training in a different direction by? serving the community at Williamson County’s 911 communications center. From behind the scenes she was still a part of the first response team.?
“Now, I don’t have to be out in the rain or work floods, but I still deal with the community, just not face to face,” Kinney said.
Kinney has been at the 911 call center for 14 months. She is in the process of training in all aspects of emergencies and is already certified in fire and law enforcement through APCO call taker training classes. She’s also CPR certified.
“I’m waiting to do the training for fire dispatch,” she said. “I like being trained in all aspects. Then, they can put me anywhere.”
Transitioning her dream from law enforcement to dispatch was a challenge.
“I wasn’t sure when I started I could make the change,” she admitted. “I still had the police officer mindset.”?
She has the qualities for dispatch — compassion and good communication skills. She learned from her grandfather and criminal justice classes the importance of remaining calm and controlling emotions to avoid escalating situations; very important characteristics for a 911 operator.
“We have to stay calm to keep [the caller] calm,” she said. “People don’t call 911 because they’re having a good day. They’re in a stressful situation. If I can be that voice of calm, I know the caller will be comfortable providing the information we need and do what we ask. I call everyone ‘Darlin.’”
The first questions a 911 operator asks a caller are their name, phone number in case the call is dropped, an address and verification of cross streets.
“Then, I lead to what’s going on,” Kinney said.
It’s all to make sure first responders have as much information as they can get ahead of when they arrive on scene. Guide cards help operators ask the right questions, and while asking questions, the operator is typing the information into a cad and dispatching.
“You have to split listen — hearing the call and what the units are saying while typing it all at the same time,” Kinney said.
Kinney has taken multiple CPR calls and has had to instruct a caller on how to do compressions.
“One time, it was a dad on a child, and another was a mom on a child,” she said. “Those are the ones that get you.”
She’s taken calls for car accidents, vehicle fires, civil matters between neighbors, animals, snakes in homes, flooding during heavy rains and falls.
“This year, we’ve had a lot of domestics and a lot of suicide threats and attempts, second party or third party calls for a friend,” she said. “Those are hard. I lost my cousin in 2006. They are never easy.”
Kinney has also been able to assist with a few missing children calls. Sometimes, they were hiding in their rooms.
“I had a [call with a] kid who was hiding under the clothes in a laundry basket,” she said. “I know how it is. I have a 2-year-old who likes to hide in the pantry.”
Sometimes, she has to put on a detective hat.?
“I had one call where somebody heard a big crash near his home but didn’t know where it came from,” Kinney said.
From his address and description of direction, first responders from Davidson and Williamson counties were dispatched. Patrols quickly found a car fully engulfed in flames.?
Although Kinney has learned to shake off the hard calls, there is one she will likely never forget.
In March, she answered a call from a man. His pregnant wife’s water broke, and it was obvious the baby was in a hurry to appear. In nine out of 10 calls like this, first responders arrive before the child does. Not this time.?
“[Contractions] went from zero to 100,” she said.
The dad stayed calm, and Kinney talked him through the delivery.
“The baby wasn’t breathing when it first came out,” she said. “I talked to him some more about how to get it to cry. When I heard that first little cry, I cried tears of joy. I just wanted to hug them.”
A 911 operator is the first person a caller in distress speaks with, and what they do next and how they do it impacts lives and can be the difference in life or death.
Thankfully, in Williamson County, there are people like Taylor Kinney ready to take the call.