Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dispatchers are Human

Yes, dear reader. A dispatcher is human. The person answering that 9-1-1 call or working the police channel is human. Susceptible to all the frailties of being a member of the two-legged, oxygen breathing, mammal race has to entail.

For hour after hour we hear the overwhelming emotions on the phone, call after call. Listening to yelling, scared, hurting, confused, angry and upset people. After all, why would people call 9-1-1, or even the non-emergency phone number, if they didn't have a problem that they figure the police can or should handle.

Or sit at the radio for hours on end assisting officers who want or need information quickly. But not just two or three officers, but at times as many as fifty plus officers who need to be dispatched to an event that is pending, or disposition that needs to be taken, or wants and warrents ran, or premise history researched, or traffic stop logged, etc... all at the same time. Officers get snippy when information isn't returned to them in what they consider an expeditious manner, not paying attention to the fact that several other officers are also needing assist/information/dispatch/etc. from that same dispatcher.

Which means, the dispatcher has to deal with their emotions in a manner that, hopefully, isn't affecting their level of service.

We have to work at not snipping back at the officer who wants to know why we haven't given him a complete wants and warrants and probation history asked on five different people just after another officer asked for contact background on a suspect of a domestic violence in progress call he is enroute to, while detectives are asking for a wagon to transport their prisoner since they are driving unmarked vehicles and thus don't have cages in their units.

Or try not to get too exasperated at a caller who is calling in, for the fourth time that month, about their out of control teenager that is mouthing off, again. Or the caller who calls 9-1-1 because they find their car has been broken into and doesn't understand why it isn't an emergency.

This job exposes us to other people at their most raw emotional state of life. We hear women being beat by their "loved one"; children crying in the background while a neighbor calls in that the parents are "disciplining" their kids again; or a father crying because he is trapped in his vehicle after an accident and his baby isn't crying; or listening to shots over the air while an officer is requesting back up as he is under fire.

Because dispatchers are human, we have to deal with the feelings, the mental and physiological reactions, that this constant barrage subjects us to. Hour after hour, day after day, year after year.

So, dear reader, if you are a police officer, please be patient when waiting for your information, for a good dispatcher will be your best backup. The information is coming.

If, dear reader, you are a private citizen, please excuse my tone of voice if it is a little sharp. Possibly the call that came in before yours was upsetting, but because of my job, I can't get up and walk away for awhile. I have to answer the next phone call.

And, if dear reader, you are another dispatcher, you are not alone.


The Dispatcher and Her Officer said...

We're not allowed to be human! You know that!!!! :-)

Very well said!!!

kvegas911 said...

So well said. Thank you!!!!!!

Evil Transport Lady said...

I actualy LIKE they way dispatchers sound. If the are calm and even cold sounding, it makes me feel that they know what they are doing:) That sounds strange, but it's true:)

911_rookie said...

Extremely well said, I just hope that I can one day have the insight that you do, seeing as I am a brand new hire at my county 911 center as a Emergency Services Dispatcher (I will be answering and dispatching calls).

* and Evil Transport Lady - it doesnt sound weird I know what you mean, I agree with you, if a dispatcher is able to as you said "remain calm, and somewhat sharp/cold sounding" I too am comforted by that because I know that its one of the seasoned dispatchers who has learned how to handle the situation and do their job!