Everyday Hero of Marathon County :: Chad Zerkle Helps a Mother Save Her Choking Toddler (Hear the Actual 9-1-1 Call)

By Chad Billeb

“Marathon County 9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

Chad Zerkle
Public Safety Telecommunicator Chad Zerkle received the Marathon County Lifesaving Medal for his service on a 9-1-1 call that helped save a choking toddler.

Those are the first words anyone in Marathon County hears when dialing 9-1-1 for emergency services. It takes a special person to utter those words and be ready to assist whoever is on the other end of the call.

Marathon County is fortunate to have a team of 29 highly skilled and trained individuals to answer those challenging emergency calls. One such call was handled by Public Safety Telecommunicator (PST) Chad Zerkle on August 30, 2016.

Chad received the 9-1-1 call from a frantic mother whose 1½-year-old daughter was choking on a small toy.

Chad was able to notify emergency responders and then assist the mother over the phone with clearing the toddler’s obstructed airway. Because of Chad’s composure, quick thinking, and emergency training, he was able to help the mother by calmly giving her directions, which ultimately saved the choking child.

Click here to listen to the harrowing recording of this 9-1-1 call as Chad guides the mother to turn the child on her side to dislodge the stuck toy from her throat.

Learn more and see behind the scenes of E911 in Marathon County in this 3-minute video of Chad and what attracted him to a career helping people as part of the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office.

As the only Public Safety Answering Point in Marathon County, the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office Communications (Dispatch) Center receives and processes all emergency and non-emergency calls for service.

In 2016, Marathon County’s E911 Dispatch answered a staggering 160,000 (est.) emergency and non-emergency calls for service.

In addition, they handled everyday radio traffic for 12 law enforcement agencies and 33 Fire / EMS services and coordinated responses for other local governmental agencies and public safety partners across the county. 

A 24/7 operation, the Dispatch Center has a minimum of 5 personnel on duty at all times.

Outside of their primary radio and telephone duties, the telecommunicators also:

  • Issue severe weather warnings and sound the tornado sirens
  • Monitor courthouse security systems
  • Dispatch response teams (e.g., S.W.A.T. Team, Dive Team, Crisis Negotiations Team)
  • Serve on special teams (as Crisis Negotiators, CPR and First Aid Instructors, and Training Officers) and perform Public Service Presentations
  • Notify after-hours on-call personnel for city / county / municipal agencies (e.g., District Attorney’s Office, Department of Public Works, County Highway Department, Child Protective Services, Medical Examiners, DNR, and Chaplain Services)

It’s no surprise that in order to be an effective PST, you must be:

  • A strong, effective communicator
  • Dedicated to public service
  • Customer-focused
  • Able to multitask and think independently and quickly

It’s a hard job, but Marathon County’s team of highly dedicated PSTs are truly everyday heroes — making a difference in people’s lives.

Sheriff_Shoulder_ PatchThe Sheriff’s Office is always accepting applications for 9-1-1 PSTs to ensure we continue to recruit the best people possible to serve in these frontline, emergency positions. If you think that you — or someone you know — would be a good fit for our team, we strongly encourage you to apply. (You can download employment forms here.)

We invite you to learn about the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office, our Core Values, and how YOU can assist with Public Safety efforts in Marathon County at our website and on our Facebook page.

Chad BillebChad Billeb

Chief Deputy  |  Marathon County Sheriff’s Office

A 24-year veteran of law enforcement, Chad Billeb currently serves as the Chief Deputy at the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office. Early in his career, Chad worked as a police officer at the Rib Lake, Medford, and Colby-Abbotsford Police Departments, as well as a Corrections Officer at the Price County Sheriff’s Office. In late 1999, Chad began his career with the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office. Chad has served as a Patrol Deputy, Narcotics Investigator, Lieutenant (Court Security, Patrol, Administration), and most recently as the Chief Deputy overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office. For approximately 11 years, Chad was an Adjunct Instructor at Northcentral Technical College teaching Firearms, Tactical Skills, Professional Communications, and other law enforcement-related subjects.  Email Chad Billeb

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