Communication Specialists (Dispatchers) are the direct critical link to law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMT’s in the field. They are typically the first person to hear the victims, witnesses, family members, etc. and the services needed, mostly in critical moments, in that person’s life. Often, the callers are distraught, crying, screaming, hysterical, out of breath, etc. The Dispatchers, utilizing their immense training and experience, calm the callers and obtain the needed information to provide emergency assistance. They obtain crucial information that the emergency responder needs to effectively prepare and respond to the situation. The emergency responders are possibly heading into life-threatening incidents and rely on the information such as suspect description, weapons, hazardous materials in a fire, victims inside a burning building, etc. The Dispatchers also “hear” all that is occurring, but never respond to the scene to see it to the conclusion. It is on to the next “call” while not knowing what occurred on the last. After hearing, consoling and speaking with distressed victims, the Dispatcher must clear their minds and handle the next emergency like the last one never occurred. The Dispatchers are a special group whom get yelled at when an officer isn’t there yet, when the firefighters haven’t arrived, when the police haven’t caught the person who stole their car, when the officer was “rude,” etc. The communications center is an extremely stressful environment staffed with consummate professionals who are a critical element in the roll of emergency response within your community.– Submitted By Ret. LT Ralph Schrader
Police – Fire – Medical
What is 9-1-1?
9-1-1 is the nationwide police, fire, and ambulance emergency number. 9-1-1 should be used as an easily remembered and accessed number to report fires, medical problems, and crimes in progress. 9-1-1 is also a free call from all phones, including cell phones and pay phones. The dispatchers who answer are trained to provide medical and life safety instructions.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN CALLING 9-1-1
The most important thing to remember when dialing 9-1-1 is to remain calm. Dispatchers are you friends during an emergency and can assist you much faster and more effectively if you are calm, able to provide the required information, and able to listen to instructions and follow them.
When you reach the 9-1-1 Operator you will be greeted with the phrase, “Hello what is your emergency, then what is the address of the emergency?” Please note that the first question asked is where. This is to verify the location of the emergency so that if the Dispatcher is disconnected and cannot reach you back they can still send help.
The next question you will hear is, “What is the phone number you are calling from?” This is because they want to be able to reach you back if the line is disconnected.
The third question is, “What is the problem, tell me exactly what happened.” Please remain calm and tell the dispatcher exactly what the problem is.
If you have called because of a medical emergency: The dispatcher will refer to their Emergency Medical Dispatch Protocols. You will be asked questions such as, “How old is s/he?” and “Is s/he conscious?” Once the dispatcher determines the most pressing medical problem they will be asking more specific questions relating to that problem. Please try to answer the questions as best you can. At the end of the questions, they will dispatch the appropriate units to assist you which can include the closest Fire Engine (which has Emergency Medical Technicians on board), a Rescue Truck or Paramedic Fire Engine (which can provide more advanced medical care), and also an Ambulance for transport to the hospital. The dispatcher will also tell you what to do before the units arrive and if necessary, the dispatcher will remain on the phone line with you until help arrives giving you step-by-step directions on how to help the patient (i.e.: CPR, Rescue Breathing, the Heimlich Maneuver for a choking victim, etc.)
If you have called to report a fire: You will be asked such questions as, “What is on fire? Is the fire near any other structures or vehicles? Is anyone trapped inside?” The more information you can provide to the dispatcher, without endangering yourself or others, the better they are able to send the appropriate resources to help.
If you are reporting a crime in progress or other police related emergency: The dispatcher will stay on the line with you while you are transferred to the Emergency line at the proper Police or Sheriff’s Department where you will speak directly with a Police Dispatcher. Please listen carefully to the instructions the police dispatchers provide and help answer their questions as quickly and accurately as possible, you can make a difference!
Always remember, if it is safe, stay on the line until told by the dispatcher that it is OK to hang up now.
9-1-1 DO’s and DON’T
- Remain Calm – The quicker the dispatchers can find out what the problem is, the quicker help can be started.
- Be Prepared to give your address including the nearest cross street to the dispatcher. The dispatchers have an enhanced 911 system that gives them the callers location, but they MUST verify that this information is correct and that this is actually where the emergency is. If you are calling from a cell phone you should be even more prepared to give a very accurate description of where you are as the dispatcher will not have an address on their screen to verify with you.
- Be Patient – It may seem like nothing is being done, but actually a lot is being done behind the scenes. Another dispatcher may already be alerting units while your dispatcher is getting more information or is giving you instructions on what to do. It may seem like it is taking forever for help to arrive, but they are doing best to combine speed, performance and safety.
- Follow the directions the dispatcher gives you very carefully.
- If it is safe, stay on the line with the dispatcher until told it is OK to hang up.
- NEVER call 911 for non-emergency reasons, doing so ties up emergency lines and personnel that may be needed to help others. You can find the non-emergency numbers by checking in your local phonebook in the government section which is usually in the front of the book in special colored pages.
- NEVER call 911 for information. If you loose power, see police and fire units, or are stuck in traffic please tune to local radio or TV for news, do not contact 911 for information – Dispatchers will not give out information over Emergency Lines.
- If you dial 911 by mistake – DO NOT HANG UP. Stay on the line and explain to the dispatcher that you dialed 911 by mistake and that there is no emergency. If you hang up before the dispatcher can determine there is no emergency they will immediately call you back, if they cannot get in touch with you, they will dispatch police officers to your address. This is done for your safety to make sure that everything is OK.
- Don’t assume that dispatchers know what the problem is, you are the dispatchers eyes and ears and the more information you can give them, the better they can help.
- NEVER play with 911 – only use 911 in Emergencies.
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about 911. Remember the dispatchers are your friends to help you in an emergency situation.
A DISPATCHER’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, help me keep safe those who depend on me.
Give me healthy ears, for they are my link with those who need me.
Keep my mind sharp and alert, my fingers quick and nimble.
Grant that I never forget how to do ten things at once, and do them all equally well.
Bless me with patience Lord.
Patience to deal with the public, with the officers, with the firefighters,
and with everyone else who makes me want to grit my teeth and yell.
Give me nerves of steel;
That I may listen to a mother screaming for her child to live,
the man with a gun, the family watching their home go up in flames, or a request
for backup or more equipment and not give way to panic.
Grant me empathy, that I may help the caller in need,
and not cause them more pain than they already have.
God, give me the ability to learn what I need, to remember it quickly,
and give me the wisdom to use the knowledge properly.
Bless my family Lord, for they will have to make sacrifices to shift work,
overtime, canceled plans and times when I just can’t take on one more thing.
Help them understand the missed ball games, school programs and dinners for two.
Lord, give me courage. Courage to persevere when I feel undervalued,
unappreciated, overworked and unrecognized.
Courage to keep trying when I feel in my heart it’s hopeless.
Last of all Lord, help me to never forget why I chose this job in the first place,
to never lose sight of what is important in the midst of the stress.
Help me to remember that I make a difference;
however small it may seem some days, and that I matter.
I am a dispatcher, Lord, grant me peace.