Mason-Oceana 911 Dispatchers Help Save Mother, Kids Lost In Manistee National Forest

A mom and her two kids found themselves lost in the woods over Memorial Day Weekend.

Dispatchers — using her cell phone to help them find a way out.

Dispatchers at Mason-Oceana 911 say the woman called them after losing her way on a family hike in the Manistee National Forest.

And a dying phone battery meant the clock was ticking.

9&10’s Cody Boyer and photojournalist Jeff Blakeman met the dispatcher who helped get the family out of the woods.


Dispatcher: "911, what’s your emergency?"

Caller: "Yeah, hi, we’re out hiking through the Nordhouse Dunes and we are not finding our way out."

A mother and her two kids lost their way, an hour after leaving their campsite.

911 dispatcher Stacy Gregwel stood by.

Dispatcher: "Do you know what direction the lake is from you right now or you can’t see it?"

Caller: "I don’t see it. I believe right now it is to my right."

“It was showing from her cell phone tower,” Gregwel says. “We were trying to get her to tell us where she was."

All the while, the mother worked to keep her kids calm.

Caller: “You are doing an awesome job, you guys." (Sound of children crying) “Yes you are.”

…But time was running out.

Dispatcher: “How’s your cell battery?"

Caller: "It’s dying."

Dispatcher: "Your cell phone is dying?"

Caller: “Yeah."

When woman called 911, Gregwel says her phone was already at only 10% battery.

She and her two 6-year-old kids were in trouble and 911 knew it.

Working as a team, they found a way to conserve their battery.

“We had to keep disconnecting so that by the time we reconnected, she was much further south,” Gregwel says.

Dispatcher: “I’m going to let you go to save your battery, okay?”

Caller: "Okay, goodbye."

Minutes later, they would call again.

Stacy’s partner followed her cell phone’s location. using a term dubbed "Phase Two."

“What that does is allows 911 to locate where a caller is when they dial 911,” says Raymond Hasil, director of Mason-Oceana 911. "There was no easy way for any responders to get to them, so it was important to be able to talk that person through how to get out on their own until the responders could reach where they were."

“The dispatchers can see it on their maps and they can get an idea on where that caller’s located at,” says Todd Myers, Mason-Oceana 911 operations manager. "For the dispatchers to be able to see where that call is located from and be able to direct the caller out that way is key and we just keep building our maps more and more."

Officers got to her in less than an hour — thanks to teamwork on both ends of the phone.

“It could have been much worse,” Gregwel says. “No one was hurt. At the end of the day, it was the perfect outcome. They were wet and exhausted, yet safe and sound."

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