Exclusive look at Cook County 911 dispatchers' quiet rooms

Mark Rivera Image
Friday, March 24, 2023
Exclusive look at Cook County 911 quiet rooms
We're going inside new state-of-the-art 'quiet' rooms for Cook County Sheriff's Office 911 dispatchers.

DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) -- We're going inside new state-of-the-art 'quiet' rooms for Cook County Sheriff's Office 911 dispatchers.

The rooms are designed to give dispatchers a break from the stress and demands of answering hours and hours of emergency calls, and ultimately benefit the people who call them for help.

Cook County Sheriff's police telecommunicator, Michelle Dorn, loves her job.

"They're gonna always remember when they had to call 911, so it's always good to be that person to help them through it -- who got them the help," Dorn said.

But at times, it can be mentally exhausting.

"We are pretty much the first first responder. So we get the initial calls of people screaming, the initial panic of situations that they're in," she said.

That's where brand new quiet rooms with light therapy at the Cook County 911 dispatch center in Des Plaines come in.

"If I've had a stressful day at work, be it a bad phone call or busy radio traffic with the officers, I can come back here and sit in a quiet room away from the noise in the hectic things that happened in the 911 center," Dorn said.

FGM Architects designed the Quiet Rooms and the Cook County Sheriff's Office says the firm connected them with Dr. Joel Robertson.

"If we let that physiology run and let it run without being able to back it down quickly, cortisol is released [and] adrenalin is released -- we've got cardiac disease," he said.

Over the last six years, total calls to Cook County dispatchers have nearly doubled to more than 700,000 in 2022.

In that same span, 911 emergency calls have nearly doubled as well to nearly 221,000 a year, according to the sheriff's office. Which is why Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said these spaces to decompress are essential.

"The public will never understand what these people go through every day," Dart said of the dispatchers.

He said, due to consolidation, this center now dispatches for 14 other law enforcement agencies.

"In this case, bigger is somewhat better but with that though the pressures and the stress also go like this," he said. "And that's why these type of rooms really need to be sort of the norm."