9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Dispatcher Gets Experienced Advise

How about, "Get out quick while you still can?" or "Abandon hope all ye who enter here?"

Okay, if you are really set on being a dispatcher and preserving your sanity, the best thing to always remember is you are only human.

Go to work each day forgetting about the day before. If you made a minor mistake that cut response time (but didn't effect the outcome), don't agonize over it...learn from it, then forget it.

If someone dies and you know that everything went the way it should have, allow yourself a moment to mourn the passing of another human, but don't absorb it and allow it to depress you. I feel far too many dispatchers burn out because they become sponge-like and it embitters and distresses them to the point they can no longer function.

Remember first and foremost to look after yourself. You may have heard things to this effect before, and I can not emphasize how valid the truth is. If you are physically and/or emotionally drained, how are you every gonna be able to give you best to someone in need?

Don't get dragged into the early fascination with what you are doing and start spending all of your off hours hanging around the PD. It's always going to be there, job security is not something we really need to worry about.

Two other little tidbits from personal observation. Try to include your family in your job as much as you can; without breaking any rules. I think you will find that the people at your job are going to become a second family.

What they say about the "brotherhood" is, for the most part, true. You're going to see these people at their most heroic and their most annoying. They are depending on you to be a lifeline. It's a bond that in many ways is similar to matrimony. And, consequently, families can sometimes feel very threatened by that. Make sure they know they are still the most important thing in your life.

Finally, if your department allows it, ride with an officer. Not just once and not just with one officer. Learn what it is they are doing while you have radio silence. The more you know about their jobs, the easier you can make it for them. And by extending yourself, you show them that you are interested in being a part of a team effort. I have found that the attitude is often reciprocated in turn.

Too Late
"You'll find that you will go through stages in your dispatching career where you really get burned out," advised Jeff Wheeler. "But hang in there, it is a passing feeling -- usually." Wheeler told the dispatcher not to let cardiac arrests, suicide attempts, domestic disturbances, or medical emergencies "get to you."

"Yes, you cry; yes, you get angry at the stupidity of some of the people you deal with on the phone; yes, you get angry at yourself for not handling a call the way you would have liked in hindsight." "But we dispatchers are still only human. And these feelings are human feelings. I would be really concerned if someone I worked with didn't have these feelings at some point or another!"

The Right Question Nets the Right Answer
It takes a savvy dispatcher to ask the right questions. The ability to ask proper questions is essential. Effective questioning gets to the real needs, which is the real challenge of call taking. Be on the look out for the disguised question, according to Friedman. Callers will say something to test if you're sufficiently concerned to ask for an explanation. If a caller says, "What does somebody have to do to get help from you people?", they want you to ask about the real problem. They might just say, "The phone rang for such a long time!", and then you'll know how to respond to their real complaint.

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