9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

One In A Thousand Is One Too Many

Taken from post on LinkedIn 8/22/14.  Written by Steve VanDyk, RPL, 9-1-1 Emergency Communications and Public Safety Expert in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Mr. VanDyk has over 18 years of experience in Public Safety.  He is the Owner of Ultimate 9-1-1, a business he started in 2010 that has a primary focus of providing more training opportunities and better training for call takers and dispatchers in public safety.

Check out these websites for more information:  info@ultimate911.ca or www.ultimate911.ca.

How long have you been wearing your headset?  When you look back on your career, what do you remember?  Do you remember your first day?  Do you remember how awkward it felt the first time you put on your headset?

What else do you remember about your first few days, weeks or months?  Do you remember feeling nervous?  Do you remember how dark the room was or how hot/cold it was?  Do you remember how uncomfortable the chairs were?  In light of all the changes with CAD systems, Next Generation 9-1-1, and technology in general, isn't it nice to know that some things will never change!

Now take a moment and think back to a particular call that you took where you had a direct impact on the caller or the outcome of a call.  Pause.  Then pause some more.

What did you feel?

My guess is pride - in a job well done.  Maybe it was a solo effort or maybe a combined one with your fellow dispatchers and officers.  Whatever it was, you should celebrate those good times whenever you are able - and share the stories with as many people as you possibly can.

Same call - think some more.  What was it that made your call so memorable?

Successful calls don't happen on their own.  It involves you, maybe a few others - or maybe an entire team - having the right attitude and outlook.  It involves extreme focus.  It involves intentional choices.

There have been far too many stories in the news recently highlighting dispatcher errors.  The examples that come to mind quickly are ones where vital information was not given to officers, or the location was not verified with the caller, resulting in emergency personnel being sent to wrong locations.

Recently on Facebook I came across a post regarding a story in Colorado.  A dispatcher weighed in and said:

"Dispatchers are human and mistakes happen.  They only get recognized for the 1 in 1000 screw ups they make."

The question begs to be asked:  If that 1 in 1000 was someone close and dear to you, would it still be acceptable?  When did we start rationalizing a margin for error?

You have the awesome responsibility to get it right 100% of the time without blame - no excuses.  It's what the public expects - what they have a right to expect when they call 9-1-1.  It's what you, yourself, would expect if you ever called 9-1-1 for a loved one in an emergency.

You have the awesome ability to make a difference every day - but it will never happen on it's own.  It's a choice.  It's a conscious decision.  You are responsible for your results - regardless of challenges, bad days, or difficult callers.  It's a huge responsibility - but it's a responsibility you took on and knew full well the first day you put on that headset.

Take a moment and consider the following:
  • When you're call taking - before you answer that call - are you prepared for whatever it is you're about to hear on the other end of that line, or are you still thinking about that conversation you were having with your coworkers.
Things happen fast - callers blurt out or yell out things quick and may only be able to provide you with that information once.  Are you ready?  Are you focused?  Missing that small but vital piece of information could be the difference between someone living or dying.

  • When you're dispatching - and you're discussing your weekend with your co-workers and an officer goes on a traffic stop.  Do you acknowledge the officer and their location and then go back to your conversation - or do you still take that extra time to consider the location they are at and which officers you might send should something go wrong?
Things happen fast - the driver of the vehicle pulls a gun and shots are fired - your officer is down.  Are you ready?  Are you focused?  The time it takes for you to re-group after hearing that emerg go off or hearing the officer scream for help, could be the difference between them living or dying.

The list can go on and the scenarios are endless.  No one errs intentionally.  I don't think I'm better than you and I don't write this to judge anyone.  I write this as a reminder.  I want you all to sleep soundly and make it to your retirement with a clear conscience and no regrets.

Are you proud of the job you do?  Do you still love your job?  I didn't ask if you liked it ... or if you grin and bear it.  I asked if you loved it - the way you did years ago when you first started.

Let me leave you with this:

"The difference between who you are and who you want to be - is what you do."

Take pride in what you do.  Choose to care.  This is the best job in the world - but you already know that.  You just needed a reminder.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Calling attention to things and preventing us from being complacent is important. Being a dispatcher is a very difficult job and one much less appreciated. However, those on the other end of the wire appreciate a great communicator!