9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Being a Dispatcher

Taken from 911 Magazine, April/May 2009
Written by Laura Vigor, dispatcher with the Henry County Sheriff's Office (Cambridge IL)

Being a dispatcher is not an easy job and sometimes not a very rewarding one. Every day brings new things. The simplest of tasks becomes a lifesaving adventure. The hardest of tasks becomes routine. And most of the time, good things go unnoticed. But as dispatchers, we continue on each day, being the best that we can.

Being a dispatcher involves dedication. Dedication means many things to a dispatcher. It is coming to work when you are so sick all you want to do is curl up in a corner and sleep. It is working on your day off for a co-worker who needs time to be with family or friends. It means working holidays and third shift, during tornadoes and snow storms.

Being a dispatcher involvs patience. Being patient when you are training a new co-worker who is just starting out and being patient with your patrolmen when they obvioulsy have no idea that they are not the only one who needs you. Being patient with callers who give you lines such as, "I know this is not an emergency, but...," "What is the phone number for ..." or, my personal favorite, "Do I have enough time to go to the bathroom before the tornado hits?"

Being a dispatcher involves giving a little or a lot of yourself. It means staying on the phone with your caller until help arrives, or crying alongside your caller, knowing a loved one isn't going to make it. It means being there for that caller who just needs someone to talk to, supporting a co-worker who has just taken the worst call of the day, or just giving hope to people who don't seem to have any.

Being a dispatcher presents opportunities -- to help others, to make a difference, and to feel good because you have just saved another life. And, of course, there is the opportunity to work with a group of the most special and talented people you may ever meet.

As a dispatcher of 13 years, I often go home feeling as though I haven't made a difference, wishing I could have done more. I go home feeling frustrated, stressed, and upset. Then I start thinking to myself, What about the baby I helped deliver in the back seat of a sport utility vehicle? What about the man that I kept alive who was all alone during a heart attack? What about that suicidal person who called me for help and is alive today? I then step back and take a look at myself and realize, "Hey, I did do all that, didn't I?" And I start feeling better; realizing how important my job is and all the good that I do.

A dispatcher's life isn't easy. We get yelled at because the neighbor's dog is in someone's yard and, of course, that's our fault. We often are told by the public, "I pay your salary," (and we just want to ask them for a raise). And let's not forget that when everything is "hitting the fan," it all comes back to us...the dispatchers.

I am a 911/police/fire/EMS dispatcher! And I am very proud of it.

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