FIUPD dispatcher went ‘above and beyond’ during Hurricane Irma

Lizandra Portal/Staff Writer

A Communications Operator at FIU’s Police Department went ‘above and beyond’ during Hurricane Irma, after taking on the role of acting supervisor.

A former native of Tampa, Gretchen Garate, an FIUPD dispatcher, started working at FIU in December 2005, but had never experienced a hurricane like Irma before.

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Photo courtesy of Gretchen Garate.

A University of South Florida graduate in psychology with a minor in criminology, prior to joining FIUPD, Garate had worked full time for her alma mater in 1998 in the records and dispatch departments.

During Hurricane Irma, the supervisor from the dispatch department was out on medical leave, and Garate said she wasted no time in taking up the role of acting supervisor.

Garate gathered and organized sandwiches, snacks, Gatorade and water for the officers and dispatchers in the office. But besides making lunch simpler, she also had to take on the role of making the schedule.

“I had to make sure the schedules for dispatch were appropriate depending on the staffing that we had for the officers,” Garate said. “Pretty much just scheduling everybody to work 12 hours on and 12 hours off.”

Organizational skills come to her naturally, Garate said, so she took it upon herself to make a clipboard to have all the information readily available for the dispatchers when anyone would call to ask about shelters, the University or any other information callers would need.

During her time at the University, Garate developed a close relationship with the custodial workers, so when she noticed that FIUPD had an abundance of food, she asked the custodial supervisors how many staff workers were staying in PG5 so she could give them some extra food.

“I didn’t know if they had it or not, and we had so much that it was either it would go to waste or someone [could] definitely eat it,” Garate said.

Working during the hurricane, she said, was an eye-opening experience and gave her the chance to show her ability of multitasking, not only as a dispatcher, but as acting supervisor.

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