This week is Dispatcher Appreciation Week. Our emergency (911) dispatchers are the first people you talk to when you call with a crisis, and I can’t begin to express the gratitude I have for the work they do.
Even though dispatchers can't see what’s happening, they are the eyes and ears of our first responders—our guiding angels who ensure that first responders get to an emergency as fast as possible.
One way to thank our dispatchers is to make their jobs easier by providing them with the information they need. When they hear a caller’s voice in desperate need of assistance, they want to be able to help. Here are six tips from offbeathome.com, which are exactly what our dispatchers would like callers to remember.
1) Make sure everyone knows your location
If emergency personnel don’t know where you are, they cannot come to your aid. So clearly, this is the most important rule when placing emergency calls. Make sure anyone old enough to dial the phone knows your home address. Not at home? Teach kids to look for clues to identify the surrounding area. If you're at someone else’s house, point out a piece of mail with the address on it.
The dispatcher has important questions to ask a 911 caller to gather information in the shortest possible time, so the dispatcher can send the appropriate first responders to the scene. If you don't stop talking, the dispatcher can’t get the information, resulting in longer response times.
3) Answer the questions asked to the best of your ability
Even if you don’t understand why a dispatcher asks you a question, answer it as thoroughly as you can. Many times a dispatcher will ask a question, only to have the caller respond with, "That's not important! Just send somebody!" Chances are, help is already on the way and the questions being asked are important, otherwise dispatchers wouldn't waste time asking them. Well-researched emergency protocols dictate certain actions, including which questions to ask. So please, trust that the dispatchers know what they’re doing and answer their questions.
4) Telling dispatchers to hurry up doesn't make things happen any faster
It's completely natural to say things like "Please hurry!" in an emergency, but it's so important for you and your kids to understand that dispatchers are doing everything they can.
Because of the way dispatch centers are set up, someone other than the dispatcher you are talking to is often sending an ambulance, a fire engine, or a law enforcement officer while the dispatcher on the line is gathering further information from you. If the dispatcher seems calm, it is because they know staying calm is the quickest way to get things done. When people rush, they often make mistakes.
5) A dispatcher’s tone does not reflect how much they want to help you
Sometimes dispatchers use their mean voices with callers. It's because they have to take control of a situation (especially if someone is panicking). Sometimes people need to be told what to do. If a dispatcher is giving CPR instructions, for example, it is extremely important the caller hears the dispatcher and follows the instructions verbatim.
6) Stay calm
Easier said than done, of course. Dispatchers know that the best outcomes for the worst calls come when callers are able to maintain their composure, answer questions quickly and follow instructions. Emergencies are frightening, but you don’t want to make them worse by responding badly.
Hopefully you’ll never have to call 911, but if you do, remember the tips above; they’ll help the dispatchers help you as fast as possible.
I am proud to say that our dispatchers are true heroes, committed and noble individuals who work tirelessly to ensure our safety. On behalf of our entire community, thank you, dispatchers, for all you do.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.
By: Chris Dewey - Chief of Police