Written by Lisa Hollowell, dispatcher with the Grapevine Police Department in Texas.
The Grapevine Police Department is like one big family. We have our good days and bad days. There are people we like and those we would prefer not to hang out with. There is sibling rivalry and an overwhelming ability to step up to the plate and help out in times of struggle and stress. During my career, there have been many changes not only in the dispatch center, but also in the police department as a whole. I have seen a great deal of growth, change and heartache during these past twelve years.
I still remember clearly my very first day. I walked in the door and knew with certainty that this is what the Good Lord had called me to do with my life. I will add that it was not what I had planned. Over time, as the ravages of dispatching have worked its way through my life, I slowly forgot my purpose for choosing to be here. I became a negative person who could not see anything positive left in the world. Events like 9/11 and officers and firefighters being hurt or killed only reaffirmed the vision of a negative world filled with stupid people who did not seem worthy of my help, time or energy. I was circling the drain and fast approaching the point of no return. I was well and truly burned out. My mistake was that I had placed all my focus and energy on the job. I forgot the importance of the life outside police work because dispatching had become my life.
When I finally woke up and realized what I had done to myself, I asked the Good Lord to help me find the way back to where He intended me to be. What I discovered during my long journey back was that my perspective was tainted by an over abundance of negativity. After all, no one calls 9-1-1 when they are having a good day. As a result, I was seeing the majority of the world as negative when in reality it was not. I had to place the world back into proper perspective. Here is what I have discovered:
- 100% of the people who call 9-1-1 are in need of help. They do not always need my help but they do need someone to hear what they have to say. This does not include pocket or purse cell phone calls or people playing on the phone.
- 85% of the people in the world are good honest people who are trying to make a life for themselves and their families. These people would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it.
- 15% of the people in the world have made really bad choices and by doing so have put themselves into the position we commonly find them in.
- 5% of the people are completely lost and no amount of effort on our part will help them be found. They have to choose to change their ways.
- 100% of the people have to choose their own path and be held accountable for their own actions.
- Most people only call 9-1-1 once in their lives and that one phone call can and does color their perspective of police and fire services for the rest of their lives.
There will be dark and negative days because they are an unavoidable aspect of the job. But there will also be the intangible rewards of knowing you were there to give that person a hand through a difficult situation. And because we have camaraderie with people who know and understand the road we are on, we know the journey does not have to be travelled in solitude. It is important that we remember to find joy and laughter wherever we happen on it, that we hold on to faith and family for dear life, and that we find something positive outside our careers to give us a positive balance for all the negative that we will be unable to avoid. Because it is with the balance in our lives that we are able to navigate the treacherous road ahead that is called 9-1-1 dispatching. We must learn to find that balance and remember that whatever we face is not personal to us but rather a personal experience for each involved individual. There are only three factors in the equation: the caller, the dispatcher and the responder. It is our responsibility to obtain the necessary information to help the caller, dispatch the call and keep the responder safe from harm. After we do all that we can, the rest is left up to the choices the caller and the responder make.