Ga. 9-1-1 Supervisor Finds Her Calling in Helping to Save Lives

March 28, 2024
“The best part of my job is helping people and just making sure that everybody is taken care of,” says Lynette Timmons, the supervisor at the Gwinnett County Police Department's 9-1-1 center.

On a Friday night in November three years ago, a Snellville mother grabbed her phone after noticing her 41-year-old daughter passed out in the driveway of their home on Pinehurst Road. She inched closer, but wasn’t sure if the girl was breathing and quickly called 9-1-1.

Amid her fears, the mother heard the voice of 9-1-1 operator Lynette Timmons, who determined the daughter was not breathing properly and relayed instructions to the woman about performing CPR.

“Let me know when you have your hand positioned correctly,” Timmons told the woman during the 12-minute call obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Make sure you count out loud ... keep pumping.”

The mother dropped the phone while doing the compressions. Minutes later, she picked it up again to say the directions had worked. Her daughter was breathing and first responders were arriving.

Timmons, 44, was given a Life Saving Award for that 2021 call, one of several she has earned during her nearly two decades with the Gwinnett County Police Department. In a letter informing Timmons about the commendation, Gwinnett police Chief J.D. McClure said her efforts and reassurance during that stressful time “undoubtedly contributed to the successful outcome of the call, which was discharge of the patient after some time in the hospital.”

“The best part of my job is helping people and just making sure that everybody is taken care of,” Timmons told the AJC during Women’s History Month.

It’s been a long journey for Timmons, who had little knowledge of the 9-1-1 communications world in 2007 when she simply needed a job. She eventually persevered through extensive training, overnight shifts and stressful calls involving the worst days of people’s lives, rising through the ranks to become Senior Communications Officer in her 17th year with the department.

Timmons estimates she has taken tens of thousands of calls over the years, ranging from shootings and medical emergencies to car crashes, domestic disputes and fires. But like many 9-1-1 operators, she wears different hats to prevent burnout. She might take calls for a few hours and then work dispatch to send police and fire/EMS crews to active scenes.

To be successful, Timmons had to learn both police and fire terminology, show good judgment, multi-task, and be patient and empathetic toward each caller.

Even though she said she cares about each emergency, Timmons tries to never show emotion because it might get in the way of people needing help. At times, though, she makes it personal, trying to imagine the person on the other line as a family member.

Those tragic calls not only impact the person dialing, she said, but the operators, too. To help with their mental health, employees at the 9-1-1 center can enter a quiet room to decompress when needed, or talk to a team (CISM) about their issues. Timmons and others are also required to see a medical professional twice a year, just to get things off their chest.

“You need to persevere,” she said. “It is a tough job and not for the weak.”

Timmons worked her way up from communications officer to training officer and now to supervisor at the 9-1-1 center on Hi Hope Road. She oversees and motivates a team of six people between the ages of 20 and 40. She handles their paperwork, evaluations and other manager-type duties.

Those who know her well sometimes call her mama or Auntie, which partially mirrors her home life in DeKalb County. The mother of six also has five grandchildren.

Since her recent promotion, Timmons has had to learn how to handle a new role. She’s taking fewer calls these days, and admits the most difficult part of her new job is disciplining her team members.

But her experience helps her tell when someone on the team might be feeling down after taking a stressful call.

“You just go up to them and ask them, are they OK? Do they want to talk about it?” she said. “And sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t.”

For women looking to become 9-1-1 operators, Timmons stressed the importance of having a support network and wanting to be there for others.

“Be dedicated and know what you’re getting into,” she said. “If you love to help somebody, this could be the place for you.”


©2024 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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