By Journal Contributors
We Are Dispatch Professionals
That “just a dispatcher” quote seems to be quite common. At NAVIGATOR this year, I was talking to a couple of gentlemen and when I introduced myself, they said they were “just dispatchers.” That’s very sad to think they feel that way. We are not just Lily Tomlin as Ernestine [the nosy and condescending phone operator Tomlin debuted on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In”] answering the phone with one ringy dingy, two ringy dingys. I know the public’s perception is sometimes that the role of the dispatcher is that of a phone operator, but we shouldn’t feel that way about ourselves. The dispatcher is such an important component of the entire emergency process, but so often not recognized.
Oren E. Rae
Here I am, a dispatcher, at one of the largest 911 centers in the United States, looking back at what it means to be “just a dispatcher.” To me, it means 21 years of continually moving forward, watching an industry change with me, learning a new technology at least yearly. It means years and years of education on so many different subjects where stress and stress management always seems to be a bullet point in the lesson. It means sleepless nights AND sleepless days. It means going home with that sense that I accomplished something, be it saving someone’s life, helping a small child find their momma, or teaching a colleague a new way of performing their job so that it’s easier for them. It means heartache and a sense of pride like no other. For the past 10 years, I have been assigned to our Training Section, which has taught me that there is a whole other side to this dispatch thing. The education that goes into dispatch and 911 now is light years ahead of where it was. Two decades ago, training consisted of two weeks in a room looking over general orders and then a sink-or-swim mentality. Now, it’s academic training, structured on-the-job training, remedial training, and continuing education daily. It amazes me every day to watch the eyes of new dispatchers and calltakers glimmer when they realize that what they are signing up to do REALLY impacts others. So, are we just dispatchers? No way! We are educated and trained professionals doing a job that not everyone is cut out to do.
Dispatchers are hero coordinators, waiting patiently to answer a cry for help. They soothe pain with the sound of a calm voice, instill confidence in those who feel helpless, and make seconds count with every compression, chemical, or conflict. They have no pause, only purpose and action. There is no scene size-up, no huddle or pre-plan; they must be ready with every scream or whisper knowing both carry a unique challenge. They are a hero’s hero.