Cobb 911 operator answers 20,000 calls, shatters county record

Cobb County Commissioner Keli Gambrill (left) presents a certificate of recognition to Cobb County 911 operator Dana Bell during a County Commission meeting Monday, March 21, 2022. Bell was recognized for answering more than 20,000 calls in less than a year, breaking the county's record for most calls handled.

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Cobb County Commissioner Keli Gambrill (left) presents a certificate of recognition to Cobb County 911 operator Dana Bell during a County Commission meeting Monday, March 21, 2022. Bell was recognized for answering more than 20,000 calls in less than a year, breaking the county's record for most calls handled.

A Cobb County 911 specialist was recently honored for handling more than 20,000 emergency calls in less than a year.

County leaders paid tribute to Dana Bell, a call taker for the past 2½ years, during a commission meeting Monday. Commissioner Keli Gambrill presented Bell with a certificate of recognition that indicated she set a new county record for answering the most calls at Cobb’s Emergency Communications Center.

“E-911 call takers are crucial first responders during an emergency,” Gambrill said, reading from the proclamation. “(Dana) calmly provides a correct response and dispatch assistance during a dangerous time or serious situation, making our agency one of the best in the country.”

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Cobb County 911 operator Dana Bell (third from left) was recently recognized by county leaders for answering more than 20,000 calls in less than a year, breaking the county's record for most calls handled. Bell is surrounded by Cobb County Commissioner Keli Gambrill (left), Cobb's Emergency communications director Melissa Alterio (second from left) and several fellow county dispatchers.

Credit: Cobb County government

Cobb County 911 operator Dana Bell (third from left) was recently recognized by county leaders for answering more than 20,000 calls in less than a year, breaking the county's record for most calls handled. Bell is surrounded by Cobb County Commissioner Keli Gambrill (left), Cobb's Emergency communications director Melissa Alterio (second from left) and several fellow county dispatchers.

Credit: Cobb County government

Combined ShapeCaption
Cobb County 911 operator Dana Bell (third from left) was recently recognized by county leaders for answering more than 20,000 calls in less than a year, breaking the county's record for most calls handled. Bell is surrounded by Cobb County Commissioner Keli Gambrill (left), Cobb's Emergency communications director Melissa Alterio (second from left) and several fellow county dispatchers.

Credit: Cobb County government

Credit: Cobb County government

Bell joined Cobb’s 911 team after being a stay-at-home-mom for 23 years. She told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she was truly honored to be recognized, but she doesn’t feel like she’s done anything special because all of the 911 operators work hard and support her.

“That’s what my job is and if I didn’t take the calls, then I’m not doing my job,” she said. “In my eyes it was a team effort; it’s not just me making that accomplishment. It was all of 911. This is not a one-person job.”

Bell surpassed the 20,000 mark in early December and finished the year with more than 20,400 emergency calls.

She only answers incoming calls at the communications center then routes them to dispatchers who send out the necessary emergency responders. Severe flash floods that hit Cobb County in September and the Atlanta Braves’ run to the World Series, which brought increased crowds and traffic because of Truist Park in Cobb, increased the call volume, according to Bell.

“For a while, because we are really short-staffed, there were some days that I was the only primary call taker on our shift,” she said. “So they would come to me first.”

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Melissa Alterio took over as director of the Cobb County 911 call center in May. She was instrumental in the recent milestone.

“I love working with Melissa,” Bell told the AJC. “She was one of my biggest supporters. She was the one that actually told me there was a record. She had investigated.”

Earlier this month, Alterio was named director of the year at the Georgia Emergency Communications conference, a summit for the state’s public safety communications experts. She touted Bell for her accomplishment during Monday’s commission meeting.

“We are so proud of Dana, she does not give herself enough credit,” she said. “Twenty-thousand 911 calls — not even including non-emergency calls — in less than a year is no easy feat and we appreciate everything that she does.”

The range of calls that 911 professionals handle runs the gamut from medical emergencies to serious crimes and mental health episodes. Bell admits her motherly instincts often take over during emergency calls and she’s willing to go to extreme measures to give callers support in the clutch.

She remembers staying on the phone with a suicidal man for 30 minutes during a standoff with police last year, and convincing him to surrender. She said authorities were able to get the man the help needed.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping people. And I just felt like at 911, every single day you’re here to help someone in a time of crisis,” Bell said.