The second week in April is set aside each year to recognize the men and women who perform the duties of 911/Public Safety Dispatcher. I struggle each year to find the right words that adequately describe the jobs they do and most importantly, words to describe how much I appreciate and respect them.
Trust me when I say that the jobs these professionals do is tough. It’s like the Grand Canyon; someone can show you pictures of it, they can even describe it in great detail. But until you’ve visited the Grand Canyon first hand, you really can’t experience the awe of it. Photo and descriptions are grossly inadequate.
So without making a feeble attempt to describe the duties a dispatcher must physically perform, I’ll focus simply on the stress of the job. The stress is enormous; the stress of being faced with having to use six computer screens and three keyboards simultaneously, the stress of not knowing what awaits on the other end of a ringing telephone or squelching radio, the stress of trying to remember the vast amount of information that was drilled into you during training, the stress of instantly recalling the information found in four policy and procedure manuals, the stress of making life and death decisions, the stress of having to listen to the telephone, the radio, your colleagues, and your supervisor all at the same time, the stress of knowing that many eyes are on them, constantly judging and rating their performance. Add to that the stress of leaving your family at night, on weekends, and during holidays and family events and you can start to get a glimpse of just how dedicated these men and women are to report for duty, day in and day out.
Dispatchers have to be mentally prepared at all times. They don’t simply take and relay information, they provide instructions; instructions to keep callers safe and instructions to render medical aid if someone is sick or injured. They must also determine if there are dangers at the scene that would threaten responders when they arrive, and relay those dangers to field units. They are responsible for the health and well-being of many, and they must be prepared at all times to handle whatever emergency presents to get it all, get it right, and get it the first time.
We use a photo of an iceberg in an attempt to describe what 9-1-1 is really like; what everyone sees and perceives is the tip of the iceberg, what is visible to the eye. What really happens, the complex actions that are taken behind the scenes, is what is below the surface of the water and cannot be seen, yet alone accurately described.
So for all of the men and women in public safety dispatching, and especially the group of professionals in Sumner County, I know what you go through and I see your dedication. I am proud to work with you every day. I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, not just during this one week of the year, but every day of the year. Your dedication and professionalism isn’t limited to one week, neither is my thanks.
Each and every one of you are truly appreciated more than I can describe. Thank you and enjoy your week!
John Tracy, 911 Director