Simply put, Rachel Corn was just looking for a job when she first came to work in emergency communications. A friend who worked as a 911 dispatcher in her native Barton County alerted Corn to an opening in the department. While she questioned the proposition initially, it didn't take long for Corn to latch onto that type of work.
"I went and I checked it out, applied, got the position and it's been in my blood ever since," Corn said.
That aspect of service is something Corn admitted she looks for in the work she does and it is very gratifying to have found such a role — a role (as dispatcher) she continued with Harvey County Communications when she transferred in 2012 before taking the position as administrative assistant to the Communications and Emergency Management departments shortly after.
As an administrative assistant, Corn handles various tasks for both departments, including billing, note-taking for various specialized groups (i.e. the public information officer group, 911 advisory board, etc.), inventory, helping write grants to secure funding for emergency management and managing the Communications Department's alarm program — a program that provides alarm services for paying customers (both residential and businesses) across Harvey County and links directly to the county's dispatch center.
On top of that, Corn maintains her certification as a dispatcher to help out at times when the center is being flooded with calls — a position that still holds a lot of meaning to her.
"There are certain calls in your dispatching career that you will never forget, whether it's good or bad, but you have so many opportunities as a dispatcher to connect with people in your community. It's good to know that you're one piece of that lifeline that can help somebody, whether it's a medical emergency or just something very simple. You are a piece of that and you can provide something and give somebody some peace of mind at the end of the day," Corn said. "I hope that I affect their life the way they affected mine."
For her continued efforts helping out where she can and serving others, Corn was recently nominated for the Outstanding Service Award at this year's Kansas Emergency Management Association conference, held last week.
Health Department Community Services Coordinator Skip Cowan, who interacts frequently with the two departments Corn assists, nominated her for the award based on her remarkable commitment to helping others in the midst of last year's active shooter situation — a trait that shines through no matter the scenario.
"She was able to just forget answering the phones for the departments and go right into answering the phones for people who were in dire straits. She was able to just flip it like a switch. I don't know if I could've done that, regardless of past experience," Cowan said. "She's just a very valuable asset to this whole department. She's just willing to take on any role, and it's helpful that she can pretty much do everything here."
Corn may not have walked away with the award, but she admitted it was a good feeling to be recognized in a role that has taken on a lot more meaning to her through the years.
"It was very nice to be acknowledged for the work that you do. It's just nice to know that it's appreciated," Corn said. "It's very gratifying to give back and serve. It's not just a job."
While Corn said she misses dispatching every day, she is happy to still have the chance to help out in that way when needed — like in the wake of the Excel shooting — and she encourages anyone who has the chance to give back to do so, as it can have a significant impact whether the gesture is big or small.