By Jennifer Siracusa
I could tell you that emergency dispatch is hard, that you go home thinking about it, and that it takes multitasking skills to an entirely new level, but then I would be telling you something you already know about emergency dispatch.
So this is what I am going to tell you instead about the profession that has reshaped my life and my perspective on life during the past 12 years I’ve been in the communication center.
Dispatch is about family
This is my second family. I spend more time with the people in the communication center than I spend with my family at home. As family, I am expected to be part of an effective team, even if some members act the same as cousins I don’t get along with or annoying brothers or sisters. I sit within arm’s reach of them for eight to 12 hours a day or more. Compared to my family’s home, however, I don’t have a place to sleep or a quiet space to go for alone time when I don’t like something someone said or if I am having a bad day. Yet, we make it work despite sometimes trying situations.
We are a family of dysfunctional, loving, and caring people.
Dispatch is about friends
Emergency dispatch has given me a friend in every person I work with and talk to in the center, on the phone, and on the radio. My friend doesn’t always have the same face and doesn’t always ask me how my day is, but I know that friend is there for me. These friends help in different ways. A friend might help locate an address, help me decide what to order for lunch, or remind me that I am human when mistakes are made. A friend understands that it’s not my fault the CPR instructions I provided for the last nine minutes over the phone to a bystander didn’t save the life of the patient, because in the end we both know we can’t work miracles. We try as hard as we can, but that doesn’t always save a life.
Dispatch is about co-workers
This job gives me lots of co-workers. Sometimes co-workers turn into friends and family, but co-workers may also decide that dispatch isn’t the right choice. A co-worker might stay for a year, a month, or less than a day. As dispatchers, we see tons of co-workers come and go. It reminds us about why we stay and what it takes to stay.
Dispatch is about being a lifesaver
The way we handle a call from the phone ringing to the radio channel can save lives. We bring babies into the world. We comfort a wife who loses her husband of 50 years. We provide instructions to a mother who is holding her unconscious child, while trying to calm her down and make sure she is doing everything we ask. We are accountable for responders on scene and work closely with the commanding chief to ensure that each goes home safely and no one is left behind in a fire. We help people trapped in a bad situation escape from harm.
I grow every day because of my profession. Every day, I learn something to improve the way I handle something the next day. Although my title is supervisor, I would gladly call myself an observer instead. I have the privilege of observing my family and friends save lives every day and develop into the best dispatchers I know! They aren’t perfect, but they are my family, friends, co-workers, and LIFESAVERS!
Thank you to every one of you during the upcoming 2017 National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, and thank you for coming into work every day and night and being my superheroes!
Jennifer is a Fire/EMS Dispatch Supervisor for Seminole County Fire Department, Sanford, Florida, USA. She has been dispatching since 2004, with six of those years in a supervisory position. Passion for the dispatch world and the people who work in it keeps her motivated.