I’ve been debating for a while now if I wanted to talk about my career field. I’ve decided that I need to, this blog is meant as a way to express myself and being a Dispatcher is a huge part of my life. It’s not just what I do, but makes up a large part of who I am.
I’m not what I would consider a “Veteran” dispatcher and I don’t work for a huge, highly populated area so I don’t deal with tons of insane calls like some do. Props to those who do, but I don’t know that I’d want to work long term in a high volume center. I’d hate to get burnt out on a job I absolutely adore.
I’ve been dispatching for about 3 years, I was hired on by my agency when they opened and had zero dispatch experience. They hired 12 people, none of which had any previous experience and we trained for 3 months, getting all our certifications. Then the day our center opened we “flipped the switch” and that was the first time any of us had ever answered radio traffic or phone calls. It was very much a sink or swim type situation.
Out of the 12 people hired, only 4 of those original hires are still here. In just under 3 years. Since then we’ve gone through hoards of new hires. Dispatch is definitely not for everyone.
For those of you who aren’t familiar on what a 911 dispatcher does, I encourage you to do some research. There is an amazing Podcast called “Within The Trenches”, they have a Facebook page. You should definitely check out some of the stories submitted by dispatchers. I could go on and on about the responsibilities and roles of a dispatcher but those stories in my opinion are the best way for people to truly get a glimpse into what we do.
Granted not every call you get is a horror story. The majority of the calls are run of the mill calls, Traffic Stops, Reckless Drivers, Civil Dispute, Theft etc. What’s exhilarating and slightly terrifying is you never know when that “Oh damn” call is going to come in. You’ve got to be ready at all times, and yes sometimes it’s not at the most convenient moment. Like when you’ve just taken a bite of your sandwich or you’re in the bathroom.
My agency handles 3 city Police Departments, the Sheriff Office, Two ambulance bases and 3 volunteer fire departments. We operate with at least two dispatchers at all times, if possible we have a 3rd. We work 12 hour shifts; 6am to 6pm and 6pm to 6am. Currently I am working nights until a new hire is ready to go to a 2 person shift.
Sometimes I wish I could say that I’m a big tough dispatcher and calls don’t get to me. But to be honest they day they stop “getting to me” is the day I’ll turn in my resignation. I remember all my “serious” calls. I replay them in my mind, and am constantly thinking of ways to improve it or be more efficient.
While your agency provides you with valuable training, there is no way to be fully prepared for a call. No calls are exactly alike and they never go the way you want them to. You’re dealing with real human beings who are calling you on possibly the worst day of their life. They are angry, terrified, heartbroken. Most of the time they don’t want to talk to you, they want someone there “NOW” It’s easy to get frustrated at the caller for ignoring your questions and demanding you “get help there NOW” but if you take a step back, it is easy to understand. They are scared, they don’t understand that we may be able to help them before a responder gets there. That’s due a lot to the fact that not many people understand what dispatchers do, or the training they have.
Every dispatcher has their preferences and how they want to handle things. My coworkers all know that I am quick when it comes to answering calls and radio traffic. Which usually means that I answer the majority of 911 calls. I don’t mind, I know some people shy away from them and prefer to dispatch it out. I like doing both so I’m game for anything. I just get a thrill out of not knowing what’s going to be on the line.
As much as I love and support my Law Enforcement Officers, I HATE the majority of law calls. Lot’s of baby momma drama, druggies, drunken morons, family squabbles and juvenile delinquents. I do lean more towards EMS and Fire calls, which some dispatch agencies only do EMS and Fire. I’ve thought about going to an agency like that but at the end of the day I love my community too much. I know the area like the back of my hand, know the people and have formed bonds with the responders and my coworkers. While our agency has and continues to endure countless setbacks, I am still determined to stay as long as I possibly can.
At the end of the day after all the dust has settled and I have had a moment to see through the B.S. and political nightmare that comes with the job. I am reminded of how much I LOVE what I do. I feel like I stumbled into my dream job. It’s the most stressful, emotional and mentally exhausting job I have ever had but I can’t imagine doing anything else.
If you all enjoy reading about what I do I will try to write more on the topic. And PLEASE feel free to ask any questions, I’d love to hear what you all think and get stories from other dispatchers!