Union Pacific Dispatcher's Swift Actions Aid Youth in Distress

Large | Don "Mac" McDonough, Critical Call Dispatcher

Don "Mac" McDonough, critical call dispatcher, aided in helping a youth experiencing a mental health crisis.

When disaster strikes, Union Pacific’s critical call dispatchers in the Response Management Communications Center (RMCC) work diligently to keep UP employees and the public safe.

With past volunteer experience as a firefighter and medic, and 32 years of emergency services experience, Critical Call Dispatcher Don "Mac" McDonough is prepared to help callers during every type of urgent situation.

On a recent shift, McDonough received a call from a distressed teen experiencing a mental health crisis. The caller, now on Union Pacific property, dialed 911 and the call was routed to RMCC.

McDonough, working to de-escalate the situation, gained the trust of the young person, who he soon found out had run away from an area youth home.

"I quickly conferenced in 911," he said. "Both myself and the operator began talking to her and taking turns asking questions."

McDonough and the 911 operator continued their search for the endangered youth, aware of the need for a quick response.

"All I wanted to do was find her and get her help," McDonough said.

Sending help meant working as a team. McDonough notified RMCC Supervisor Carla Sellers-Patterson, who contacted Special Agent Tony Paulsen to help find the teen.

She was spotted in a Union Pacific building but fled before rescuers could reach her directly. The following day, the police department was able to locate her and provide access to medical assistance.

McDonough said ensuring the young person's safety was a collective effort.

"One teammate provided one of the addresses, my supervisor helped coordinate efforts with the special agent, the special agent responded to assist and the train dispatcher stopped train traffic by coordinating with the yardmaster, managers and myself," McDonough said. "In the meantime, the 911 operator, the police and fire department all took action. While I was taking this call, my fellow teammates were fielding numerous other emergency calls."

McDonough says the ordeal has impacted his outlook moving forward.

"I don't take life for granted," he said. "Time is precious. Help those in need whenever you can. Go that extra mile if you must make sure everyone goes home safely."

McDonough is celebrating 15 years as a critical call dispatcher at the end of January.

Special thanks to all of the UP employees involved in helping this teen to a safe space:

  • Andrew Steinhoff, train dispatcher
  • Brian Withers, train dispatcher
  • Jason Johnson, yardmaster
  • Tony Paulsen, senior supervisor-Division Police
  • Carla Sellers-Patterson, supervisor-RMCC
  • Dennis McCabe, critical call dispatcher
  • Hayley Mendoza, critical call dispatcher
  • Dakota Stubler, critical call dispatcher
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