911 operator awarded Telecommunicator of the Year

By Gary Brode | gbrode@wcia.com

Published 02/11 2014 10:50AM

Updated 02/11 2014 10:54AM

DOUGLAS COUNTY -- It was a 911 call this dispatcher will never forget. A beaten woman needed help, but it took detective-like work to get her to safety. WCIA-3's Gary Brode has the story.

The first thing which made the call difficult is the caller spoke Spanish and Debbie Cook doesn't. She was also calling from a different county, but Cook wouldn't give up trying to help her.

That's why the Illinois Sheriff's Association gave her the Telecommunicator of the Year Award. For nearly 21 years, Debbie Cook has been taking phone calls for Douglas County. But a call in late October was one of her biggest challenges.

"I could not take control of her because I could not understand what she was telling me."

A woman had been beaten and was frantically driving, searching for somewhere safe. But the woman spoke very little English and had no idea where she was.

Deputy Sheriff Peter Buckley was in the room while Cook tried for 20 minutes to get what information she could.

"She was able to get this woman who was incredibly hysterical to calm down enough and speak enough English that Debbie was able to get the name of the perpetrator who had battered this woman."

Cook used her experience to figure out the woman was in Coles County. Police found her and took her to the hospital. Buckley was so impressed, he nominated Cook for the award.

"I was just speechless. I mean, I still can't believe that I won it."

But, Deputy Buckley wasn't surprised.

"I could have nominated her for a half-dozen other times. I've been in law enforcement for 30 years and I could not do the job Debbie Cook does."

Cook says the award is an honor, but she was just doing a job she loves that day.

"I just know we got her the help she needed that day."

Cook says it was an honor to receive the award in front of all the law enforcement in attendance because, to here, they are like family.

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