I was recently contacted by the man behind the hashtag; the creator of #IAM911, Ricardo from the Within the Trenches Podcast. He asked me to listen to the preview of Episode 146. This episode shares just some of the #IAM911 stories heard at a live event. Within two minutes of listening I had chills and tears in my eyes all at once. This episode gives the listener just a small glimpse into what it is like to be a telecommunicator in public service. This episode will be great for not only other telecommunicators but for everyone, the officer you work with, the friend who is not in public service, your family member who always asks what your job is like…….so basically everyone!!
Get excited, get ready for the release of this episode at the end of the week!!
The movement #IAM911 brought to light what telecommunicators have always known, we too are emotionally affected by the job we do. We and those around us just did not know it was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It’s not easy to answer the phone, listen to a child scream in pain as they are burned by flames as his drunk father yells at him. Only to then hang up the phone and have to answer the next call that comes in about someone who locked their keys in their car.
When we hang up the phone, no matter what kind of call we just took we absolutely have to quickly adjust our mindset and prepare for the next incoming call. This all happens in literally a few seconds.
Never do we get to go to the scene and see these voices we hear. Some voices become so familiar the caller’s name, address, and often date of birth are singed into our memory. Some voices have obvious fear in them, some of the voices are those of desperation, some voices have sounds of helplessness and some have hatred.
Never do we get to see what sounded like screams of sheer terror was actually a small child crying from a bump to the knee when we answer a 911 call that is quickly hung up.
When our officers (and yes they are OUR officers, they are the brothers and sisters I never wanted but sure glad to have them) are on a call and not answering their radio when we call them we do not get to quickly turn the corner because we were en route to them anyways to see they are just fine. They hadn’t heard me calling them to make sure they were safe because they were playing catch with the neighborhood kids.
As 911 dispatcher’s we are the unseen, we are very rarely thanked. Although we are the first line in public safety we are usually the last one you think of when the term public service is used.
So often people assume that all 911 dispatchers want to be cops or firemen. Nope, many cops and firemen couldn’t handle this job. Just as many dispatchers couldn’t nor want to be in their boots. 911 dispatchers should be proud of who they are and of what they are for they are not ONLY dispatchers…they ARE dispatcher.
For all of these reasons and many many more PTSD and stress runs rampant through our profession. I ask of you one thing…during this week that we celebrate our Telecommunicator’s…be sure to do some self-care. It is not a sign of weakness it is smart!!!
Be sure to get in a routine to check on your co-workers. Did they take a rough call? Offer to listen while they go get some fresh air or while they call their family just because.
Most importantly, don’t do nothin‘!! (oh my poor English teachers would be screaming if they saw that)