9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Reminder: "The Golden Rule"

Taken from blog by author on LinkedIn, Sept. 16, 2014
Written by Steve VanDyk, 9-1-1 Emergency Communications and Public Safety Expert

I'm often asked if I miss the "action" of the job.  I'm referring to the adrenaline rush you get when your direct involvement makes a difference by helping someone, or saving a life.  Maybe it's the speed in which you ask your questions and enter the call to be dispatched.  Maybe it's the speed in which you co-ordinate your emergency responders.  Whatever the reason is - I know we all agree that the rush of adrenaline is a pretty cool feeling.  That's one thing we all have in common - whether you work for Police, Fire or EMS.

The job of a 9-1-1 dispatcher - for the most part - is comprised of hours of boredom filled with spikes of adrenaline.  Consider for a moment - the person on the other end of the line.  You're not the only one that has that rush of adrenaline.  Most people don't make a habit of calling 9-1-1.  The majority of people that call 9-1-1 do it when they are going through a traumatic life event.  Adrenaline affects everyone differently; it's known to affect your breathing, your vision and most definitely, your memory.

How often do you get frustrated with the public?  Have you ever had a caller report they were held up at gunpoint but unable to give a description?  Have you ever had a caller who was just so hysterical - they were unable to provide their location?

Put yourself in their shoes and consider the stress that they are under.  Someone just pointed a gun in their face.  A family member or other loved one is missing - or maybe injured.  We need to expect that it may take a little longer to get the information we require.

A few years ago - I taught a new hire class: "Call Taking 101."  I was reminding the class about how to speak to the public - but also how to take a proper description.  You know this: gender, race, age, height, weight, followed by description head to toe.  On this particular day I had a co-worker whom the class never met, interrupt my class.  It was staged.  He came into my classroom and handed me a blank note.  I thanked him and proceeded to introduce him to everyone.  We made some brief small talk and he then excused himself and left the room.

I reviewed the information with the class one more time and then told them they were going to do a little exercise.  I asked them all to take a few minutes and to independently write down a description of my friend that had just left - in the format they just learned.  After a few minutes I asked them to put their pens down and handed out a picture that I had taken of my friend earlier in the day and asked them to read back their descriptions one at a time.

The result: Four drastically different descriptions of the same person.

None of them were under any stress at the time.  None of them had a gun or a knife being pulled on them.  The room went quiet.  They gave me the deer-in-the-headlight look.  Point made.

How patient are you with the public?  How would you expect to be treated if you ever had to call 9-1-1?  Do you remember being taught the golden rule as a child?  I do.  A more modern translation today would be something like this: "treat others the way you would want to be treated."  This would apply to every call we answer.

Let me leave you with this:

"It is your job to control the situation - it is your job to be calm for those that can't be."

Take pride in what you do.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  This isn't a new concept - but you already know that - you just needed a reminder.

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