As many of my regulars know, I make it a policy to not talk about work here.

I've learned that the less I talk about work, the happier I am as a human being. When I first started doing this job, I would come home and "unload" on Mother of Five. After a short while it got to be too much for her... Not so much because of the nastiness of what I do, but because I was so excited I tended to ramble on and on about each and every detail of the day. It got the point that she asked me to cease and desist. Which (for the most part) I have.

I only "bring home" the "best of the best" or the "worst of the worst" nowadays, and so I doubt she (or anyone who has never done what I do) can fully understand what it is that I do, and what it is that I go through each and every day while at work.

I am sure it is not healthy, but for the most part - I tend to bottle what happens up at work, and like a message (of bad news) in a bottle, hope it will float away with the tide after being tossed it in the ocean.

For the most part, this method has worked.

Today, fellow dispatcher (and blogger) Linda from "Are We There Yet", wrote one of the most poignant and articulate descriptions of what it is like to be a dispatcher (or what 10 minutes of being a dispatcher) is like.

I am amazed on just how similar the experience (of dispatching) can be - even 1/2 way across the country. Although, I guess I should not be surprised... After all - human emotions are human emotions - wether you are in Minnesota, Connecticut, New York, California, or Alaska.... (Linda is a dispatcher from Connecticut... I am from Minnesota)

- - - - - - - -

I don't remember the name of MY caller... But I remember her husband's name. It was Harold. And almost EXACTLY like Linda's story, Harold's wife was not ready to let him go. She begged and pleaded with him not to leave her yet, she was not ready. It was like a punch in the stomach, knocking the wind out of me, when I heard Harold take his last breath on this earth. Harold's wife did not yet realize what had just happened, but I have heard that noise on the phone before... You learn to recognize it... That last breath..

Or the desperate and confused cries from a little five year old who was "exercising" with her grandpa (he was babysitting) - when he suffered a cardiac arrest. She dialed 911 for help, and while help was on the way, she kept asking her grandpa to wake up. "Grandpa, wake up. Wake up phuleeese! Grandpa?" Then, after not getting any answer from her Grandpa, asking my partner if she knew why her grandpa wont wake up (in the way only a little five year old girl who has no idea or understanding of what is happening can...). Remember folks... she was there alone with her grandpa... and just watched him die in front of her (very young and impressionable) eyes.

And who could forget answering the 911 call from the 11 year old boy who just discovered his TWIN brother had hung himself in their basement. Yes folks... ELEVEN YEARS OLD. This young lad had hung himself because he was upset for having been sent to his room for spilling cereal all over the kitchen table. So upset in fact, that while in his room, he hung himself... When his brother discovered this, he ran up and told his mother, who then ran downstairs and was trying to render aid to her son. Mom told the other twin to call 911 for help. This call had me sick to my stomach for many days, I nearly vomited.

These are just a few of the examples of thoes bottles that the tide just wont take away. These bottles just keep "lingering in the lagoon".

So, please take the time to visit the link, and read one of the most telling descriptions of a call I have read - ever.

And next time you have to dial 911, please remember that the person you are talking to may have just hung up from a phone call like one of the examples listed. With not even 10 seconds to try and gain some composure... or try to understand...


Linda - that was nothing less than Remarkable! Kudos to you!


  1. You're right, it doesn't matter where you dispatch at - California, Connecticut, Minnesota, Iowa - the experiences are similar and, at times, can be horribly sad.

    I think the biggest part of the problem in talking about our job is that you can't really describe it to anyone else and, I don't know about you, but there are times I don't want to either. My ex-husband once asked me why I seemed stressed all the time because all I did was "answer phones". He never got it.

    Just as you will always remember the name of Harold, I will always remember the name of yesterday's patient because the caller said it so many times during the course of the call but I didn't want to mention it in my post for privacy reasons.

    Thank you for the kudos; it helped me to write that post and maybe, just maybe, it might give people a slightly better idea of what we as dispatchers do. At least I hope so!

  2. Yes... My caller also kept repeating her husband's name... Over and over and over...

    It's been close to ten years, and I can still hear her voice calling his name...

    ... and that last breath...

    Your post has spoken beautifully for our profession.

  3. People tend to think of what others do in relation to their experiences with it. For me, the only experience I have with 911 operators is telling the lady, "Look, all I need is some EMTs to come pick me up off my floor..." where I lay after my back spasmed into a rigor-mortis-like state. "I do not...REPEAT...DO NOT need the firemen to come."

    You know who got there first with all the fanfare of a parade? Yep, you guessed it.

    We (I) never think about the truly morbid and terrible side of being a 911 dispatcher. I would imagine that it might be even more difficult than being the actual rescuer since you get to listen without being able to physically help.

    God bless you guys (and girls)!

  4. That's for making me love my job. I hate that you have to deal with these things on a daily basis, but know you are doing a heroe's job. Thank you.

  5. What a great post!! I am not in dispatch, but as you know, am in the jail. In my 4 years there I have had to deal with some things that have not and will not ever leave my head.

    My sister-in-law works in our dispatch, when we get together the talk is usually about work. We both have stories, but hers are usuallly ones that would affect someone the most.

    You guys do a great job, and are a major reason road patrol can do their jobs and protect their communities!

  6. There are some people who are 'special' in my eyes. Only certain types of people can do certain jobs. You are one of those special people, I'm sure you will never know how many people you have truly helped.

    Passing this on to all those other special people out there.


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