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Retiring dispatcher recalls 22-year career highlights

By Staff | Apr 26, 2008

Sue Zitterich

“32-12 from Emmet County …”

That’s probably how Sue Zitterich began her career in the Emmet County Law Enforcement Center as a dispatcher back on April 1, 1986.

In the past 22 years, she has heard all about it and from all walks of life as citizens called in with information or asked for assistance with whatever problem life was handing out at the moment.

She has also seen, heard and felt the spectrum of emotions that comes with the job: fires, fatal accidents, burglaries, criminal mischief, and probably several babies who couldn’t wait to be born at the hospital.

While she had a ringside seat in the nerve center of local law enforcement, she, like any dispatcher, had to be rooted to the spot on every shift.

Zitterich said there were times when she wanted to jump and lend a hand in situations where the ambulance crews were called as she served the community well as an Emergency Medical Technician for many years. But she had to stay put and keep the lines of communication open for all of the first responders.

“I actually found this job to be enjoyable because multi-tasking comes easy for me. I’m the type of person who can be involved in two conversations at once and hear three other conversations going on!”

Observing all of the dispatchers in actions, this reporter can verify that Zitterich and the rest of the dispatcher team are duty-dedicated.

“I’m a homegrown girl and this has helped immensely as I know everybody and everybody’s grandparents,” she said. Zitterich is the daughter of Dicksie and the late Irvin Haukoos.

While she enjoyed her job, she said, “This is not a job I could recommend for everyone. For one thing, you have to have good hearing!”

“As I said you have to multi-task in a big way here.” Emmet County dispatchers must man:

n Four 911 lines.

n Six telephones.

n Four computers.

n Five to six radio frequencies at any given time.

Zitterich said the job is a magnet for copious amounts of information from law officers and the public. Many times it’s received simultaneously.

“Among other things, we have to know the 10-Code System, the Phonic Alphabet and be in communication with multiple agencies including the Estherville and Armstrong police departments, Emmet County Sheriff’s Department, Estherville, Armstrong and Ringsted ambulance services, Wallingford First Responders, Estherville, Armstrong, Ringsted, Wallingford and Gruver fire departments, Emmet County Emergency Management, Iowa State Highway Patrol and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.”

She said part of the job goes with her when her shifts end.

“I am always noticing license numbers when driving; it’s an occupational byproduct as we are running license numbers all the time.”

She was on duty the night of the lumber yard fire. “Once I called the fire department, I had to quickly get a hold of the gas company and the city electrical department.”

Her most stressful moment was the time a jailed individual attempted to take his life.

But the best part was easy for her to share. “I like my job and have enjoyed it a lot. I hope I’ve done something to help the community. I would like to thank the people of Emmet County, the Emmet County Sheriff’s Department and the Estherville Police Department for the opportunity to serve them for 22 years.”

So once the afternoon shift comes to a close on Wednesday, April 30, it will be 10-42 final for Sue Zitterich.

She plans to spend time with husband Kevin, son Kevin, daughter Moriah, grandchildren Angel and Garrett. The family is awaiting the birth of the third grandchild.

Rest assured, a pumpkin crop is in the Zitterich fall forecast.