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It’s no secret. We’re busy! They call us the kings and queens of multi-tasking. We answer calls, radio units, dispatch police-fire-ems to all of their calls. We deal with warrants; ours and other jurisdictions. We’re the ones to catch blame first and accolades last.
Our jobs are rough. We get to go through every motion on a daily basis! A constant roller coaster, if you will! We are skilled in the art of keeping order in the middle of chaos. Often times our shifts consist of 8-16 hour spent in the hot seat. That’s a long time listening to people plead for help during some of the worst moments of their lives. Per NENA’s website, there are an estimated 240 million calls to 911 a year.
We’re not gonna lie, most of us would rather not talk to you! Not that we don’t want to, it’s just that we deal with the worst of the worst, all day, every day. With that being said, IF you ever do have to give us a call, here are just a few things we wish you knew!
1.) Most Of Us Have A Twisted Sense Of Humor.
It’s no big surprise that with everything we deal with, we might be a little twisted. Our dry humor is definitely a coping mechanism for everything that lands in our laps. What may be considered rude or off color to you, is pretty much the normal way for us. We tend to laugh at times when maybe we shouldn’t, but trust me, we really do care!
2.) Whatever Happens, Don’t Hang Up On Dispatchers!
This one goes without saying! When you call 911 and hang up on us, we spend a lot of extra time trying to track you down and to get info! We REALLY dislike a 911 hang-up! If you accidentally dial us, please, stay on the line and let us know! We’ll love you forever!
3.) Butt Dials Make Us Cringe.
For the love of sweet, little, 8lb 7oz, Baby Jesus; LOCK YOUR PHONE SCREENS! Hearing the sound of denim brush up against your phone while it’s in your pocket isn’t one of our favorite things! Although, we DO enjoy hearing the background conversations about the shenanigans some of you get into!
4.) We Don’t Use Crystal Balls.
While I know this is going to be a HUGE shock to some of you, but we really don’t know everything. If you call and in tell us that you’re near Jim-Bob’s down by Hillbilly Corner; chances are we don’t know Jim-Bob, and most likely don’t know where Hillbilly corner is. We use our maps. A bunch. We also aren’t fans of when callers call 911 all frantic and act like we should know what is happening. Granted, you may have called in earlier and spoken with another dispatcher, but we DO have multiple shifts working daily. We also take hundreds of calls every day. The chances of you getting the same dispatcher are pretty nil. Make sure you give us as much detail as calmly as possible! We know it’s difficult, but answering questions as best as possible gets you help so much faster!
5.) Screaming, “Get The Cops Here Now!” And Then Hanging Up On Us, Will Not Make The Cops Get There Now.
We get it. We really do! When you’re calling us, most of the time you’re stressed to the max. BUT with that being said, not many things burn our asses more than someone calling in on 911 and screaming, “Just get the F***ING pigs here now!” and then hanging up on us. We have NO idea what’s happening. The last thing we want to do is send our fellow first responders into a blind call. Please, for everybody’s sake, stay on the line! We ask questions. What we do isn’t anything remotely close to what prime-time TV wants anybody to believe. We don’t have magic phone systems that automatically decipher a voice and tell us who and where they are. It’s a whole lot more swearing and way more booze and depression. Help us out by staying on the line and answering a few easy questions!
6.) Dispatchers Are Human Lie Detectors.
No bullshit; I will swear on vacation days that us dispatchers definitely have some special Spidey skills when it comes to sniffing out a liar. We deal with enough people on the daily that many of us can tell a person is not being 100% truthful by the tone of voice or the words a person uses. I’m sure there’s science to back up my claim somewhere, but for now, just let me have this one. My success rate on lie detection to this point is pretty stellar.
7.) Just The Facts, Ma’am.
Efficiency is the name of our game. We like to pack as much info into a CAD into the quickest time possible. Do you know what prevents that? Little Sally Sue who’s calling in about her ex-boyfriend Darian. Sally Sue gives us her whole entire history with Darian. Oddly enough, by the end of the talk with Sally, I feel as if we’ve bonded and I should probably be on their Christmas card list and should be looking forward to a wedding invite when they fix their relationship issues. In all seriousness, REMEMBER THIS PHRASE: What happened today that I need to make a report about? We don’t need the details from the last ten years of your life. We want what you’re calling for at this very instant. Details, yes, we need them, but not details that stretch back to 1982. Just give us the facts!
8.) Location. Location. Location.
Unlike what you see on TV, dispatchers rely mostly on the information given to us by the callers. If you have no idea where in world you are, please try to find a piece of mail or use the GPS map on your phone for a good location. Sure, technology is good and sometimes it is downright spot on with locations. BUT the fact of the matter is, it’s not always accurate. If you have a smartphone, make sure it’s got the latest software update and your location services are turned on. If you have to call us in the event of an emergency, it’s more likely to be accurate than guessing.
Dispatchers spend way too much time calling cell phone companies trying to ping phones for locations. And even then, they’re not always correct. We’re trying to get you help, fast! Please have a good location for us to send responders to!
9.) Don’t Ever Say The “Q” Word.
We’re superstitious! We can’t help it! We cringe when we hear, “I hope your night is quiet!”
Someone dropping a Q-bomb is the equivalent of someone summoning Loki, the God of Chaos himself into out little dispatch lair. A Q-word being dropped can ruin the morale in a room quicker than finding out Santa isn’t real.
Each center has their own little set of superstitions. We’re clearly just a bunch of mystical creatures!
10.) A Great Number Of Us Have PTSD.
A sad but true fact. Many of us are scarred. We all have certain calls that stick with us and remind us from time to time about them. I had a call one Christmas evening as a family was sitting down for their Christmas dinner celebration. My caller was just screaming, “My Grandpa is having a heart attack!!” and then proceeded to keep me updated on the specifics. We tried CPR until medics made the scene. I then hung up the phone and just as I did the medics got on the radio and requested another ambulance for the Grandma because she had gone into cardiac arrest.
That’s just one of the many calls that sneak up every once in a while to let me know it’s still there. I have dreams at night about some of them. I know I’m not the only one. Fellow co-workers and I like to sit and talk about “our calls” from time to time. Some include children and others center around older couples. The sounds of emergencies stick with us and are vividly replayed from time to time. It’s just an ugly side effect of the job.
Thankfully, co-workers and my husband understand. We have each other to lean on! All of us need someone to lean on! If you don’t have someone right now, find someone and talk it out! If you know of a dispatcher or another first responder struggling, reach out! You may never know how needed you are!
I Could Go On And On
But I won’t. Share your “I wish you knew” lists with me! Agree or disagree with any of mine? Let me know! Leave a comment! Share away!
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