You’re in a panic. You are a little disoriented. Your car has gone off the road and into a ditch. You are hurting and confused. You grab your phone and dial 911. Then you hear that voice on the other end of the line say, “911, what’s your emergency?”
If you live in Danville, oftentimes that voice you hear will be Lakeisha Poke. The Danville native has spent the past nine years as a telecommunicator with the City of Danville.
Being a telecommunicator isn’t for everyone. It’s hard work. You must have a passion to help people, the ability to do multiple things at one time, and the tough skin to not take things personal. “You have to comprehend that the person on the other end of the phone is having what they believe to be a crisis, and you have to have the ability to guide them through it,” says Poke. “You have to be prepared for long work hours, cold lunches, a full bladder, sacrificing family events, and getting called in on your days off.”
Yet, even with these challenges, Poke has been steadfast in her nine years on the job. From day one, she knew what she was stepping into. “While doing some training for the Danville Lifesaving Crew, one of the requirements was to have sit-in hours in dispatch,” Poke recalls. “I remember coming down and being amazed at all of the things that were taking place. These people could keep up with every unit on the street. They took calls that would shock most of us, but when the next call came in they were able to gather themselves and give the same amount of professionalism. The stories they told and the passion in their voices made me want to be a part of their team.”
The demands of the job can take a toll on someone, but Poke manages to balance her personal life with her professional work. She is the oldest of three siblings and the mother of three children of her own. Despite her busy schedule, she still finds time to read, volunteer, and be active in her church.
To Poke, the rewards of her job make the sacrifices worth it. “When you calm the fears of a mother whose child is having a medical emergency or convince a suicidal subject that life is worth living, it gives you the feeling that what you have done during your shift has made a difference,” Poke professes. “There are few words that can explain how you feel when you go from having a screaming person on the line to that same person thanking you at the end.”
When asked what advice she would give to someone thinking of becoming a telecommunicator, the Danville Community College alum responded, “Don’t get into this field for a paycheck. Do it to make a difference. To save a life. To be there for someone in their darkest hour. Do this job because it makes you a better you.”