10 Things Dispatchers Wish You Knew

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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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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!

You might like: https://thesaltydispatcher.com/the-burnout-is-real/

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Just When You Think You’ve Heard It All

**This post may contain affiliate links. If you happen to click on one and make a purchase, it won’t cost you anything extra. However, I may receive compensation for your purchase, this is known as affiliate marketing. Just know if I’m sharing a link in one of my posts, it’s a product I believe in!**

I’ve done this for a minute or two. Rarely can I say “Well… That’s a new one,” and just when you think you’ve heard it all, life surprises you.

I did it TWICE yesterday. TWO TIMES. I pulled a dispatch hat trick.

Let me explain…

Yesterday started off as an abnormally quiet day for dispatch. Until a co-worker took a call that initially came in as a seizure, where a competing athlete collapsed while participating in a triathlon. No big deal. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. However, our 911 lines started lighting up. Again, we were receiving calls from other spectators at the triathlon. Obviously, something else was now happening. Callers started telling us they thought the seizure patient was now having a heart attack.

Long story short; they were. A deputy was sent, shocks were administered, dead patient was saved, patient refused medical aid once conscious unless they finished the race. The in fact DID finish the race and still refused medical. The deputies had to force the patient to go to the hospital.

Whilst on that call, my radio channel had a fresh hot call for shots fired. Turns out someone shot another person in the ass because they were going to try to walk into the road. Obviously, they thought they were helping. I’m not quite sure how that thought process happened, but it did and someone ended up with two extra holes in their butt.

I’ve never had two calls like that back to back. None of us in the room had ever had two calls like that back to back. Without a doubt, we were all amused and stressed out when it was all said and done.

Cocktails and some CBD oil were had after shift, obviously.

Before I sign out on this one and put it away, can I ask you for favors? Please share this blog post with others on your favorite social media platform. Also, in the comments down below, tell me your crazy dispatch stories about “Just when you think you’ve heard it all”!

Looking for more to check out? GO HERE

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Some Days You Just Need Ice Cream.

Today was a Monday. Perhaps the most Monday-ist Monday I’ve had in quite some time. My radio at work entailed working a main channel. Which is not a big deal! I can rock a radio out. I’d dare say that I’m actually pretty darn good at it! However, today… Today was… Different. Today took it out of me.

My morning started off normal-ish. Traffic stops, units marking on and off duty, the regular calls, and then an unknown accident. With 3 cars. And a smoking vehicle.

I had just walked back into dispatch from a bathroom break when the shit hit the proverbial fan. I quickly threw the headset on and picked up a 9-1-1 call. The caller was involved in the accident that everybody else in the room just briefed me about. The caller told me they thought whoever was in the car across from them was dead. Through sobbing I collected details and notified the appropriate units.

One by one they start making the scene. And there it is, “Central, we have a confirmed fatality.” That sentence immediately gives you a sinking feeling.

My road guys start running license plates and notify me not to give the information back over the air about the owners. This is usually typical when there is a fatality involved. However, upon running plates, I’m able to see the people behind these vehicles they’re running.

A Face To Go With A Name Is A Good Thing

I’m able to put a face to a name. Something that we often don’t get in dispatch. Closure isn’t something we’re familiar with. We often get left in the dark as far as outcomes go. Upon seeing the information included in the license plate returns, the mood in the room changes. We all realize that someone’s family has just changed and that life is fleeting. We take a second, talk about it, and then start working again.

From there on out, the day is pretty much screwed. You do your best and trudge through the rest of it like a boss. You drive home in silence, let the dogs out, and then sit in a quiet house reflecting on the day. When your husband calls you and asks if he can take you for a bike ride and some ice cream because he knows what kind of day you had, you take him up on that offer. Because somedays you just need ice cream.

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A New Logo & A T-shirt Campaign To Go With It

**Just a quick heads up! This post about a new logo & a t-shirt campaign to go with it contains links to outside sources. If you click and order, it won’t cost you a thing, but I will get a portion of the sales! I meaaaan, let’s be honest, any profits that I make are going to go to filling in that wage gap that us dispatchers have and I have some extensive yard projects going on. So, help a sister out!**

On a whim, I decided to commission myself a new little logo & a t-shirt campaign to go with it. The designer at www.Fiverr.com was pretty darn awesome to work with. I wanted simple and vintage-y. He delivered! I can confidently recommend using Fiverr to anybody who needs some creative work done! I’m feeling all official now!

After sharing the new logo with some co-workers, we figured that the design would make for some cute stickers decals and t-shirts! So that’s just what we’re doing. From now until May 24th, 2019 you can order one of these pretty sweet t-shirts! I picked some different Ts and Hoodies so there are plenty of options available with lots of colors to choose from! To snag one of your own go to https://www.bonfire.com/the-salty-dispatcher/

The New Logo on the shirts look pretty sweet!

My new blog project is starting to feel real! This might turn into a decent little hobby! It feels like a new beginning. And we all know that new beginnings are a chance to start over new and create something fresh. Plus, we already know it’s definitely cheaper than therapy. I’m kinda digging this!

“It’s never too late to become who you want to be. I hope you live a life that you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald
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The Burnout Is Real….

You guys know the drill. You go to work, exist on a roller coaster of adrenaline dumps and returns to normalcy. Your workday is anything BUT normal. It’s chaotic. It’s noisy. It’s sad. It’s happy. It’s everything in between. You get where I’m going with this, right? It can get OLD. And fast. They say most dispatchers, or any first responder for that matter, go through their first “burnout” phase between 3-5 years into the job. It’s almost to the point where if you DON’T feel the “burnout” I’ll look at you like a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest. There isn’t one first responder that I know who hasn’t gone through at least one round of burnout. Most I know have gone through many. I’m in my 18th year of first responder bliss. I know I’ve gone through the burnout several times. And I keep coming back. It’s something ingrained in us. Something that makes us keep taking the emotional beatings over and over again. It’s who we are as people. Our jobs aren’t easy! Not to say that we’re superhuman (I meaaaan some of us probably are, let’s be honest) we see the worst society has to offer and we still do what we do! Day in and day out.

While there are varying degrees of burnout, mine have always teetered on the “I F***ING HATE THIS JOB AND THE BS THAT COMES WITH IT” spectrum. I tend to get angry for several weeks and then chill out for a bit. Realizing that my job isn’t the worst thing in the world and because I’m actually pretty good at what I do, quitting probably wouldn’t do anybody any favors. When I think about qualified employees quitting because of animosities or because the burnout is real, I cringe. I think of all of the men and women working the streets. The firefighters, the police officers, the medics, who all rely on qualified dispatchers. You guys, we literally ARE the lifeline for our first responders! Don’t take it lightly. My husband’s out there. My brother in law is out there. Friends, family, are out there. You get the idea! These are the people that would suffer if qualified employees left. Susan sitting on her couch at home with a heart condition would suffer. Joe on the corner whose house is on fire would suffer.

There are ways to lessen the effects of burnout! Follow me, here!

1:) Take your stinkin’ vacation time! E.S.C.A.P.E. your environment for a few days! Regardless of what you think, and how highly you may think of yourself, your office CAN and WILL survive if you take a week/month/3 months off. Keep following the blog, and I’ll have some travel tips!

2:) SHUT YO PHONE OFF when you get home! No, really! Unless you’re really important and can’t be missed, turn it off. I signed up for Ooma for this specific reason. Nobody does landlines anymore. Everything and EVERYONE is right in the palm of your hands when you have a smartphone. I get home from work, plug my phone in, and grab the landline phone. People who are important have the number and know they can call that if they need me. I can’t stress how much of a difference this has made!

3:) Find a hobby. A real one. Get creative! Write, paint, draw, or if you’re like me, make some stuff with your hands! In my spare time, I’m kind of a Cricut expert. I make all kinds of t-shirts, tumblers, signs, wall decals, etc. I HAVE to do something in my off time to keep busy and keep me relaxed. Making stuff is my jam!

4:) Layoff the caffeine. I know, easier said than done for some. Your Starbucks baristas may miss you for a while, but it really is for the greater good!

5:) Sleep. Lots. My nightly average of sleep is around 4-5 hours. I KNOW I don’t sleep enough. When I know I don’t sleep enough, I stress a little more than usual. Luckily, my husband also works day shift and goes in relatively early some days. Any more if we’re not in bed by 9, there must be something seriously wrong going on. Shut your alarm clocks off on your days off! Catch a little extra sleep. Being a little lazy isn’t going to kill you!

6:) Set aside some time JUST for you. Not you and your kids. Not you and your husband, Not you and your wife. JUST YOU. You need time to decompress after your shift. Jam out to your favorite music or maybe sit in silence and meditate. Whatever it is that relaxes YOU, DO IT!

7:) Acknowledge that you need help! You can’t do everything on your own! Though you’re programmed to take care of things, sometimes getting an extra hand from someone can make a world of difference. There is ABSOLUTELY nothing to be ashamed of! For real! Rome wasn’t built in a day and it sure as HELL wasn’t built by one person! Your empire will take several sets of hands to make it into the kingdom it’s meant to be!

Seriously, you have to realize that the only person that can take care of you is YOU. Nobody else. Not your mom. Not your dad. Not your husband. Not your wife. NOBODY BUT YOU. You have to advocate for your own mental stability. Take breaks when you need them. Say, “No” when things are rough. Ask for help! With a little bit of vigilance, you can get past your burnout phases! You’re good at what you do! The world needs people like you! Don’t let a few bad days ruin your future in a career that you excel in! If you start feeling smothered, take a step back, take a big breath, evaluate things and move forward. Figure out where you can cut corners and go from there! None of us are machines! Let me repeat that, NONE OF US ARE MACHINES! Let yourself feel emotions. Cry it out! Do whatever it takes to come back stronger than before! And as always, if you ever need an impartial ear to bend, I’m your person! Send me comments or emails!

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“You’re JUST A Dispatcher”

NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING strikes more anger at the heart and soul of a dispatcher than that phrase. We’re there. Every call. Before our police friends, fire friends, or paramedics make scene. We’re there when the situation is chaotic. We hear the screams for help from the mother after she found her 2 month old blue and unresponsive in bed. We hear the pleas from a husband of 50 years for his wife to start breathing. We hear as that same husband apologizes profusely to his beautiful bride for everything he’s ever done that maybe wasn’t right by her. We hear him say he hasn’t had enough time with her yet through sobs and attempts at CPR compressions. We hear those agonal breaths and we know that at that point unless a miracle walks through that door fast with an AED and whole lotta support from the great God above, we’re just there on that phone for moral support. We talk suicidal people off of their ledge. We make friends in those brief, but intense phone calls. We listen intently hoping to hear any kind of clue through screams of horror as a mad gunman breaks into a house and starts popping off rounds. We hear the shots being fired at our officers right before they pay the ultimate price. We aren’t secretaries. We aren’t JUST DISPATCHERS. We have the PTSD scars to prove it. Each one of us has calls that we carry with us. The sounds of our worst calls forever burned to memory. Some nights I dream of calls I’ve taken like I’m sure many others like me do. We may not be on the scene, but we’re there. 24/7/365. To those of you walking the gold line and sitting in that hot seat on a daily basis. Keep rocking it out. Someday you’ll be recognized as more than a clerical position and maybe your pay will start to reflect that! Like one of my favorite podcasts says #IAM911. Wear the badge proudly.

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