April 08, 2001 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

Ronda Griffin laughs often, is a busy mom of four kids and enjoys serving her community.

Griffins also a dispatcher for 9-1-1, the emergency response system serving Union County, and is often the voice of calmness and security when someone is in the midst of a crisis.

After just a bit more than six years on the job, Griffin found herself last week earning the first Dispatcher of the Year award given in the county.

You represent the best, La Grande City Administrator Wes Hare told Griffin in front of a roomful of fellow dispatchers, police officers, sheriffs deputies, firefighters and family members men and women who are the first to respond to the calls when someone needs help.

Ronda stands out, her supervisor Lola Lathrop said as the award was presented. Shes always willing to do more.

Griffin was chosen by nominations from all the agencies that are dispatched by the 9-1-1 center. The comments on the nominations, Lathrop said, noted Griffins superior knowledge of what was needed in her work, her thoroughness and consistency, her diligence and her overall professionalism.

Lathrop started the annual recognition in conjunction with Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, proclaimed by Gov. John Kitzhaber for April 7-14.

Hundreds of dedicated telecommunicators daily serve the citizens of Oregon by answering their requests for law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services by dispatching the appropriate assistance as quickly as possible, Kitzhabers proclamation begins.

In Union County, nine dispatchers provide 24-hour service 365 days a year, Lathrop said. Each year they answer more than 2,000 9-1-1 emergency calls, along with tens of thousands of non-emergency calls.

The job can be stressful because a dispatcher may need to handle several incoming calls at one time, and at other times may have to wait a long time for the phone to ring. Training is exhaustive and constantly updated, and it all involves shift work. Dispatchers may also have to wait to hear the results of an emergency call.

Griffin knows about that first-hand. She was the dispatcher on duty when her husband called to request emergency medical help because their son was injured.

Griffin says she didnt start shaking until she hung up the phone and had to wait to hear how badly her son was hurt. But shes learned to keep her life in perspective.

You have to separate your job and your life, Griffin said. You get to the point where you have to leave what happens here, here.

Some times are just tougher than others.