At some point in your career, you lose track. After answering thousands of calls, listening to countless hours of radio traffic, and providing EMD instructions, you are bound to have a moment of complacency. It may be something as simple as not getting vehicle colors in an accident call. It may be something that does not affect the call’s outcome.
Other times, it can be detrimental to the safety of your officers, firefighters, or other first responders. You did not ask about weapons or any number of other things as we run through our checklist of questions. You just happened to miss one on this call. Now you are scrambling, trying to get the caller back on the line to get more information for your officers.
As we go through this career, it is important to remember the very basics. Always go back to day one of your training at the beginning of each day when you put your headset on. What have we always been taught before and above all else? Responder safety. Remember this as you sit down for your 8-, 10-, 12-, or 16-hour shift. Remind yourself of it before you answer the phone or the radio.
It becomes hard to focus as you approach the end of these long shifts. However, that is when it is most important. Because we all know that as the day or night drags on, that is when we become most complacent.
If you are a 30-year veteran or have just started this job that we all love for our own reasons, I implore you, every day, every hour, when you answer that phone or that radio, be sure that you have not become complacent. Make sure you ask your caller the pertinent questions. When that officer radios in on a traffic stop, don’t rely on where that computer says they are. Make them tell you the location. Get every bit of detail from your caller that you can. Most importantly, remember responder safety. Because, at the end of the day, we all want to know that each one of our responders is doing well and carrying on. They are going home because we did our job and we did our job well.
We all know the job; we all know the right way to do this job. Some of us have more training than others. Some agencies spend years training before they let you loose on your own. On day one, some hand you a headset and say, “Figure it out.” If you are one who spent years learning the job, trust that training, remember that training, and use that training. If you are one who was just thrown to the wolves per se, seek out any information you can that will help you. Reach out to the IAED™, APCO, NENA, or any of the other organizations. Use Facebook and look for those 911 pages, and make a post saying that you need help or have questions. While most of us get crotchety in our old age, we will always take the time to help someone in need. That’s part of why we do this—to help.
The key is no matter how long you have been at this, never let yourself become complacent. Always ask every question. It may seem like a waste of time to get the officer’s location; you can see them on the map. Ask anyway; the map can be wrong. Even though the phone number for the caller is imported to CAD, there may be a problem with something. Always verify the phone number. Just don’t become complacent. Your responders’ lives may depend on it.
James Queen has been with Douglas County E-911 in Douglas County, Georgia (USA), for 2 ½ years and is currently an Operator I with the center. He came to this career after 25 years in a totally unrelated field. He is EMD Advanced certified and attending Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama (USA), for a degree in Emergency Management.