The Port Angeles Police Department, represented by PenCom deputy director Karl Hatton, left, honored Dennis Laboy, a communications supervisor from Sequim. (City of Port Angeles)

The Port Angeles Police Department, represented by PenCom deputy director Karl Hatton, left, honored Dennis Laboy, a communications supervisor from Sequim. (City of Port Angeles)

9-1-1 dispatcher honored for helping to save a life

9-1-1 staff recognized by state and local dignitaries as first responders

SEQUIM — A telecommunicator, also known as a dispatcher, is the person you likely encounter first in an emergency after calling 9-1-1.

They’re behind the scenes deciphering the situation, reaching out to first responders in the field and possibly initiating emergency measures for the person on the other line.

“It’s a job unlike anything else I’ve done,” said Karl Hatton, deputy director for Peninsula Communications, or PenCom, Clallam County’s 9-1-1 center.

“You never know what you’re going to get or the difference you’ll make.”

In March, the Port Angeles Police Department, which PenCom operates under, awarded the PenCom Life Saving Award to Communications Supervisor Dennis Laboy of Sequim for his efforts during a September 2021 incident.

Laboy, who has worked for PenCom for almost 11 years, said a woman called 9-1-1 about her husband who was unconscious and not breathing.

Moments prior, Laboy had to call back the number after a hangup, and within 17 seconds, he had connected with paramedics and sent them the caller’s location, Hatton said.

Laboy also determined that the man needed CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and when told the wife didn’t know how to do that, he gave her instructions.

She performed CPR for 7 to 10 minutes until medics arrived.

Port Angeles police reported that the husband, who was taken to St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton, survived.

“I credit her with doing a great job for what was necessary to save his life,” Laboy said.

“I was impressed and pretty privileged in that position helping someone who was willing to help their loved one.”

Laboy said the award is a continued step forward for telecommunicators.

“The people I work with are amazing individuals,” he said. “It’s a special group and I’m honored to be a part of that.”

Senate Substitute Bill 5555, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim in part recognizes telecommunicators as first responders and sets the stage for these staffers statewide to establish a certification process for the profession.

Municipalities across the U.S. are also recognizing April 10-16 as National Telecommunicators Week.

A start

Laboy pursued a career with PenCom after seeing an ad in the newspaper.

“I was looking for a job with benefits because I was thinking about my young family,” he said.

Many telecommunicators think about going into the medical field or law enforcement, but Laboy said he finds his work continues to get his adrenaline going.

“Someone is going through the worst scenario of their life and most human beings are going to be in a state of panic. Our job is to help them,” he said.

Response by callers, such as the woman who called 9-1-1 last September, are key.

“You as a loved one have a role in being able to save that loved one’s life,” Laboy said.

“We can’t do that without the assistance of our callers.”

Role of dispatchers

When a call comes into PenCom, telecommunicators are working with the caller and simultaneously with first responders in the field. Laboy said their goal is to dispatch an agency to a location in 60 seconds and if needed initiate CPR within 120 seconds.

He encourages callers to stay calm and follow instructions.

“[They] have two options: you can take out your frustration and be mad, or understand that the [telecommunicator] is trying to do everything in their power to help,” Laboy said.

“Ultimately, it can save a life.”

Laboy said the job requires a calm demeanor and the ability to think quickly.

“You just need to have a passion to help people and learn not to take things personally,” he said.

“At the end of the day, I love my job and for the most part we’re able to disconnect and learn from any errors.”

Said Hatton: “We do provide instruction that can make the difference in saving someone’s life.”

Filling a need

In recent years, finding and keeping public safety telecommunicators has been difficult, Hatton said.

PenCom continues to advertise locally and nationally, but he finds many state agencies are struggling to hire now.

PenCom has been operating around half staffing capacity with 10-11 of 20 telecommunicators for more than two years, Hatton said, while continuing to advertise vacancies.

Some administrative staff, including Hatton, have been working 9-1-1 consoles to cover shifts, too.

Basic training takes about six months before a person can work a console on their own, he said, and then it’s at least another six months with a mentor before they are independent.

“Thankfully, like most 9-1-1 centers, we’re always backing each other up,” Hatton said.

For more information about the vacant positions, visit


Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at

More in News

Jill Zarzeczny of Port Angeles, left, and her children, Althea Zarzeczny, 4, and Lupine Zarzeczny, 9, look for marine life beneath the sand during Tuesday's low tide at Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles. The minus 2.99 tide qualified as one of the lowest of the year with tides of minus 2.53 at La Push, minus 2.70 at Makah Bay, minus 2.55 at Seiku, minus 2.74 at Crescent Bay, minus 3.08 at Dungeness, minus 3.42 at Port Townsend and minus 3.82 at Dabob Bay. Similar low tides are forecast for the rest of the week across the North Olympic Peninsula.
Lowest tides on Peninsula

KEITH THORPE/PENINSULA DAILY NEWS Jill Zarzeczny of Port Angeles, left, and her… Continue reading

In a PT Artscape project, Blue Heron Middle School teacher Charlie Fornia, left, and artist Jesse Watson finish painting a “Welcome to PTHS” mural on the woodshop building at Port Townsend High School. PT Artscape hired Watson to design the mural and hosted a morning of painting with elementary, middle school and high school students from around Port Townsend. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)
Welcome mural at Port Townsend High School

In a PT Artscape project, Blue Heron Middle School teacher Charlie Fornia,… Continue reading

Clallam restarts search for county administrator

HR director has filled spot for four years

Road work to close part of Race Street today

The northbound lane of Race Street will be closed… Continue reading

The North Olympic Library System is hosting a series of open houses to showcase its new bookmobile.
Bookmobile open houses scheduled

The North Olympic Library System is hosting a series… Continue reading

Racers in the Race to Alaska pass by the cheers and well wishes from the hundreds of spectators lining the docks at the Northwest Maritime Center when the cannon went off at 5 a.m. Monday, starting the 750-mile journey from Port Townsend to Ketchikan, Alaska. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
And they’re off to the Proving Ground

Race to Alaska boats to leave Victoria on Thursday

With emotions running high, the skipper of the boat, Jordan Hanssen, and crewman Greg Spooner share a hug as the boat is pulled up the ramp under the eyes of spectators lining the dock at the Port Townsend Boat Haven on Monday. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Rowboat that set record recycled

Ceremonial ‘wake’ held for 30-foot vessel

Burn ban in effect in Jefferson County

Clallam County to prohibit fires by July 1

Most Read