It’s a little-known fact that this week is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. And even if you had heard that, you probably wondered just what the heck that is.
It’s hug a 911 dispatcher week!
I don’t know how we came to occupy an entire week of our very own, but we do like the attention. Believe me. We also like homemade cookies. Ahem.
As a dispatcher, I get a lot of questions about the job, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to answer a few.
Q) Is it super-stressful?
A) Yes. Send cookies.
Q) What’s the most difficult part of the job?
A) Listening to ten different things at once and trying to keep them all straight. In my off-time, I avoid off multitasking completely. If I’m chewing gum, I refuse to walk at the same time. Nor will I talk on the phone off-duty, unless it’s my mom. (Love you, Mom. Send cookies.)
Q) What’s the worst call you ever took?
A) Any time I take a call in which a child is hurt or killed, that becomes my new worst call ever. We never get used to those. I would like to declare a moratorium and anything harmful happening to a child ever again. Effective immediately.
Q) What’s the funniest call you ever took?
A) Any time I take a call in which something inanimate is placed and then stuck in a lower orifice (by consenting adults), it becomes my new funniest call ever. Keep it classy, Minneapolis. Also, turkey basters are for the kitchen.
Q) What was your favorite call?
A) Every so often, we get to help deliver a baby, which is a thrill, a wonder, and a kick in the pants. Having contractions? Call us! Operators are standing by.
Q) How do you become a 911 dispatcher?
A) Degree programs for 911 dispatching are rare. Most of us just filled out the apps, passed all the multitasking and prioritizing tests, and then actually believed the HR guy when he promised we wouldn’t have to work every single holiday.
Most agencies also run criminal background checks on applicants, so get ready to explain that lost weekend in 1995, if you can remember what happened.
Q) Why do you deserve your own week?
A) Because we’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and dog-gone-it, last week some dude I don’t even know – and who I was trying to help – called me a f— b— and told me to shut the f— up.
Q) How do I show my local 911 dispatchers how much I love them?
A) Well, aren’t you sweet! Really, all we want is for our callers to be as calm as possible, to know where they are, and to do their best to answer our questions.