Thank goodness for steady voice in storm
9-1-1 dispatchers are unsung heroes, the quiet, competent voice on the
other end of the line in an emergency. They sit in darkened rooms
staring at computer screens. But their job is far from quiet. Most of
the time it seems to be multi-tasking at its most stressful. When the
crisis hits, however, a good dispatcher is the steady voice that can
help us ride the emotional roller-coaster and get help for our loved
ones, whether it is a medical emergency, a burglary in progress, a
domestic dispute or some other harrowing life event.
The recent case of local dispatcher Alicia Hayes helping a couple through a childbirth at home is just one example of the many important contributions dispatchers make to the community. Dispatchers work behind the scenes. They don’t see the joy of a husband when a wife comes out of convulsions, or of parents when a nearly drowned child starts to breathe on his own.
Dispatchers are the ones who try to calm down terrified victims and get them help as soon as possible. Dispatchers talk with often panicked people and calmly pass along the information, without error, to officers, firefighters or paramedics speeding to the scene of the emergency.
Dispatching is a very stressful job. As Police Chief Thomas Wagoner of the Loveland (Colo.) Police Department eloquently puts it, a dispatcher must have the compassion of Mother Teresa, the interviewing skills of Oprah Winfrey and the knowledge of Einstein. Dispatchers must have the gentleness of Florence Nightingale, the answers of Ann Landers and the investigative skills of Sgt. Joe Friday.
Only special people with unique skills can handle the challenges dispatchers face. They are a therapist, doctor, teacher, psychologist, guidance counselor and much more all wrapped up in one calm package. If you can watch TV, read a book and listen to the radio at the same time, and remember and repeat back everything you hear and see, you might make a good dispatcher. If you can type 40 words per minute while you talk, you might make a good dispatcher. If you can monitor radio channels and weather radar while dispatching calls, you might be a good dispatcher. If you can talk calmly to someone facing an emergency and coach them about what to do while the ambulance heads their way, giving step by step directions, you might make a good dispatcher.
These unseen first responders are true heroes of public safety. They are trained to expect the unexpected, to imagine the unimaginable, because it might well be part of their next shift. We should thank these people manning the nerve center today for a job well done.