You Can’t Just Do My (Dispatcher) Job

Seven computer screens. Doing seven things at once. Controlling chaos with just your voice. These are all things that make 9-1-1 operators/dispatchers unique. These are skills and attributes that make who we are and what we do special. You can’t just...

This is a tough one even for those who have worked the floor for a long time but we continue to do it. We are solution driven. We want to figure out what the problem is quickly and find an answer for it. Ultimately, most of the time our answer is to send an officer out to sort through the mess. But, we must remain attached to our desks. We have to be able to find solutions while being physically removed from the action. We cannot get up and walk away. We can’t go get a soda or take a bathroom break without someone relieving us. We can’t make ourselves busy or stay on a traffic stop just a little bit longer after the driver has left so we can take a breather or even finish our paperwork.

You become completely immersed in your 9-1-1/radio world. Often hours will pass and you won’t even notice especially on a busy night or during an emergency. You have to be able to stay in a fixed position while providing essential services. Most officers would run from the room heading straight to the scene. We have to protect in place.

Controlling the Scene-With Just your Voice

This one is a lot like keeping your butt in the seat but it speaks to what a dispatcher/9-1-1 operator does while in the seat. A public safety telecommunications operator must control a scene with just his or her voice. We cannot use our physical presence or handcuff one party and make them sit on the curb. We cannot separate people physically. What we can do is control the tone of our voice, the way we talk to both 9-1-1 callers and officers and what we say. Like that look that all mothers seem to have down perfectly (you know that one that still makes you cringe and feel like you want to hide under a rock even now as an adult), public safety telecommunicators can control most scenes with just a tone. We know when to be hard, when to be soft and when to have someone else get on the phone. This part of the job is both nature and nurture. It’s an instinct that is groomed with experience and training.

I’m not saying that some of the tasks of being a 9-1-1 operator/dispatcher couldn’t be handled by others. I’m sure some people (especially officers who know how things work and understand how to give customer service) could come and do an adequate job with portions of our job. What I am saying is that public safety telecommunicators have unique qualities, training and abilities. We are definitely professional somebodies.


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