Many argue that the "true first responders" in emergency services and law enforcement are the people answering the phones.
911 operators are the link between citizens and those dispatched to help them in times of crisis. They are the essential middle man, and the voice of reason when everything implodes.
No one knows that better than Debra Wimpy, who has worked as director of the 911 communication center at the Dawson County Sheriff's Office since 1999.
Wimpy, 63, has held the role longer than any of the previous directors, as the county first established the 911 center in 1996.
Wimpy retired in December after 18 years of dedicated service.
Originally from Gainesville, Wimpy worked at the Sheriff's Office from 1989 until 1993, after which she worked to put Lumpkin County's 911 system online before returning to Dawson County.
Wimpy said that when former Sheriff Billy Carlisle took office he contacted her about the job as 911 communication center director, and she started the job during his first term as sheriff.
Carlisle said that after working with Wimpy for so long, it's hard not to look back at all that has changed.
"We worked together back when we didn't have anything, years and years ago in the 80s," Carlisle said. "I'm proud to have had her on my team, we've come a long way together."
Wimpy had all positive things to say about Carlisle as well.
"He's a fabulous sheriff, I've worked for four sheriffs and he's the best," Wimpy said. "We've seen a lot of good changes under him."
At her retirement party on Dec. 29, Wimpy was presented with a plaque and addressed the audience of gathered personnel.
She said the thing she will miss most about her job is the people she works with.
"I've made some really good friends. They're all considered my family."
Wimpy also said that she sees the sheriff's office continuing to grow like it has under Carlisle.
"This is a good agency, and as bad as I'm not wanting to leave, I need to leave for the sake of my family. I want to see the department grow and prosper and do great things," she said. "It's like leaving my babies, but you've got to give them wings sometime."
One communications officer, Stanley Elrod, has worked with Wimpy for the past 14 years.
"I've worked with her a long time, and we've been friends for 28 years," Elrod said. "We've seen it all together, and I couldn't ask for nobody better to work for."
Wimpy said her reason for leaving is so that she can take care of her two grandsons, who are 4 and 5. One of them requires special care due to injury from a car accident, and Wimpy said that she will be glad to now have the time to devote to him.
"He comes first," Wimpy said. "Since God put those babies in my life, they'll come first."
The communication center currently employs 10 people, with two openings.
Wimpy said that in the course of a year, the 911 center takes an average of 150,000 to 175,000 emergency and nonemergency calls, which includes the sheriff's office, fire department and emergency services.
Taking Wimpy's place is Aleshia Rucker-Wright, who has worked under Wimpy for several years.
The director oversees the day to day operations of the center, including maintaining training and working with supervisors.