Daphanie Bailes has been an emergency dispatcher with Martin County Fire Rescue in Stuart, Florida, USA, since 2005, where she is currently the Training Coordinator. She is a licensed Emergency Medical Technician and has a bachelor’s degree in public safety. She is passionate about the mental well-being of her dispatch family, including awareness of the various triggers that are inherent in this career.
Tell us about the first column you wrote for the Journal. The column received more than a thousand hits and, you could say, it went viral in the world of emergency dispatch.
“Bound to Happen” didn’t actually start as a column; it was more of a mission statement after a very difficult call. I wanted to write about my experience with my sister because lots of people work where they grew up or maybe in an area where they have lived for an extended period, and they know people.
Give us a brief re-telling of the story about your sister.
I’m on the radio that day, and I notice a call pending about a possible drug OD of a 27-year-old female. Her boyfriend is giving CPR. It takes a second, but putting together the age, a familiar phone number, and the boyfriend’s name, I realize it’s my sister who’s needing the ambulance. I get someone to cover for me and call my boyfriend to pick me up. We get to the address in time to see the crew wheeling her out. She does not survive.
The point of the story goes beyond your personal experience—it does happen—to a greater message for others in your profession. Can you summarize the message and why it’s so important?
There was no debriefing. I took the week off for bereavement and handled things with my family, but it was still a long time before I could walk back into the comm. center and not have a flutter in my chest. My co-workers were left on their own, emotionally, and since we tend to spend so much time together on-duty, family-related calls can affect an entire comm. center. So my message reminded chiefs and supervisors to take care of your people. Emergency dispatchers will be the last ones to actually ASK for help. We’re not in a field unit, but we’re still affected by what happens. We are plagued by what we think is happening rather than actually being able to touch, feel, and see it … and the damage is just as real.
Why does the message so resonate with readers?
I write from an emotional standpoint. I write about the way this job can affect us and that it’s OK to get your feelings out in the open. It’s OK to speak up about what you need from your chiefs and supervisors. If help is not available at their centers, I want people to find outlets that will help them. We have to take time to care for ourselves, our families, and our co-workers. If we don’t, there’s nothing left that we can give to our callers.
Is it a message that should—or does—resonate with the public?
I think more and more people are beginning to understand what we do. There’s still a long way to go, but our message is getting out there. We care about what happens to you, and we’re here to help. It might take a while for the “I am THE FIRST, FIRST RESPONDER” idea to sink in, but we’re getting there. The more we say [or write], the more others will understand.
Final question: Why keeps you stay in the profession?
It is a privilege knowing that I can be there for someone and can be the calm, caring person that helps them through it until someone can hold their hand for real, and I hope that I would get that same treatment in return if I needed to call for help.