Good afternoon! This episode of Within the Trenches features Sabrina of West Palm Beach Dispatch Operations. We had an excellent conversation before recording and it was nice because we were able to get to know each other better. After only a few minutes of talking to her I felt as though we knew each other all our lives. This is a must listen episode that everyone can learn from. Make sure to check it out, share and as always, you can email the show at email@example.com.
Episode topics –
- How Sabrina got into dispatching
- The interview process
- Line of duty death
- Dispatch education/training
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By Ricardo — 7 years ago
I have always said that, “in the moment of crisis, we are the voice of authority.” It’s something that I firmly believe. We as dispatchers are your link to the help you need. We do our best with every call because that’s what we do. We get the job done and send help where help is needed. When our caller is overwhelmed with panic and fear we are there to calm them down. It’s not an easy job and it amazes me how some people can think that we are merely drones with no emotion. I can tell you from personal experience that this is far from true. The job itself is easy to learn but it’s the emotional stress that can take a toll on you.
Let’s start with a scenario. You wake up on a beautiful spring morning. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and you have the whole day ahead of you. You look over at your spouse and your heart drops. What you see before you has taken your breath way and your heart is racing. You panic and begin to shake your spouse…he doesn’t move. You want to cry but you can’t. You begin to sweat and in your moment of shock and panic you run next door to ask your neighbor for help. This can’t be happening. Not today, not for a long time you think, but it is happening. You lay next to your lifeless spouse as your neighbor calls 911. It’s horrifying, is it not? This is a call I took a few years ago. I spoke to the neighbor and all I could hear in the background was a female yelling for her husband. I remained calm and did my job but inside I was dying.
“Don’t leave me! Please, not now…we had so much time left together!”
I’ve heard shouting like this many times. I have felt my callers pain and I think what makes it hard is that there is no closure. When we take 911 calls we try to deal with them one at a time but sometimes it gets so busy that we have to go back and forth between them. Once the call is over and help has arrived we go right to the next one. Sometimes the only way we find out the outcome is when someone calls for the medical examiner. I mean, if we ever get the chance we’ll find out some information but otherwise we’re in the dark and it makes it hard. I’ve listened to more death than you can imagine. I have heard those taking their last breaths, and I have heard families grieving for their loved ones. One can develop thick skin but it doesn’t always work. After listening to the screams of those in need and those in mourning it definitely starts to penetrate the defenses of ones emotions.
I remember when I worked in Florida many years ago. It was my first night alone and I was chatting with the Chief before he headed home. As he left the door swung open. A lady ran in crying and screaming. I could barely make out what she was saying. The Chief and an officer left to a near by residence and the lady remained in the lobby sobbing. She had just come from her residence where she found her husband. She had recently left him but decided to go patch things up. She wanted to be with him again but instead she found his suicide note. This is how my dispatching career began. I remember how surreal the moment was. I remember how I felt for this woman who had just found her husband dead. I wanted to go over and hug her as she cried for him but I couldn’t. I had a job to do and I remained in my seat. For the rest of my time in Florida, I believe that was the worst call I ever experienced. It wasn’t until my current job that I dealt with it more frequently.
There is nothing worse than listening to someone die. Those last gasping breaths can haunt you. The calls that get me the most have to do with giving CPR instructions. I was once told that if you’re giving CPR instructions the person has a 5% chance of coming back. Every call I have taken, I hope and pray that the person falls within that 5%. It doesn’t always happen that way though. There is no consistent happy ending but the majority of the time there are other factors to ones death that CPR cannot fix. It’s a hard job but this is what my co-workers and I do. I could go on and on with the scary parts of my job but I will stop for now. There is a lot more that I have dealt with but this is just another glimpse into dispatch. The emotions flow within us like any other person but we hold back in order to do the best job imaginable. Would you ask for anything less?Post Views: 158
By Ricardo — 6 years ago
Within Allegan County Central Dispatch sits one of several seasoned 9-1-1 operators. Her 20 years of experience have contributed to the safety of the public as well as her co-workers in public safety. During down time, she jokes with her co-workers in the room. Having a contagious laugh, the others can’t help but join in. The phones rings, the room goes silent.
“9-1-1 where’s your emergency?”
This is how Tammy Gane answers a 9-1-1 call. She’s calm and professional with a helping of patience. She questions the caller asking for an address, name, phone number, and the situation. The call involves a car that was broken into over night. Something easy when it comes to taking a 9-1-1 call but it’s not always this easy. Tammy has dealt with far worse during the course of her career.
Gane, the oldest of three, grew up in western Michigan. The daughter of a homemaker and father, who was a truck driver, was taught a strong work ethic. This quality would follow her throughout her life and carry on in the lives of her two daughters. She began her career through friends and a chance meeting at an FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) corn roast. This meeting led to a night where she caught the public safety bug.
“I had a lot of friends that were in law enforcement and I played softball. Some of my girlfriends on the team were also married to state troopers so that’s how I got into the circle. One year I was at the corn roast with one of my girlfriends and I met Rachel’s dad there.” Rachel, being her eldest daughter, “we ended up going to a bar and his buddies left him. He wanted me to give him a ride home but I didn’t really know him so I made him stay at a hotel.”
She smiles and laughs as she reflects on this memory. “The next day he asked for a ride again and I didn’t even know him so I bought him a bus ticket and put him on the bus.” Laughter ensues as she continues her story. “We started dating and when we decided to get married I moved to Kalamazoo.” Gane explains that around the summer of ’85 her husband at that time had asked her if she wanted to ride with him during his night shift. It was the night before Thanksgiving. Gane had decided to accompany her husband that night. She started out the shift in dispatch where she describes the scene as “just crazy busy.” She later rode with her husband and witnessed a fight with a disorderly subject and radio traffic that left her pumped.
That night in dispatch was only the beginning. She would later land a job with Kalamazoo’s Juvenile Court. She dealt with child abuse neglect cases, delinquent adoption cases, and worked the switchboard. Gane also worked for a local attorney but moved to St. Joseph some time later. Around this time, she gave birth to her daughter Rachel and had gone from having a clerk’s job in the jail of Berrien County to working in dispatch. Her training back then in dispatch was that of pure observation and common sense. Her very first 9-1-1 call was someone who wanted to commit suicide.
“One night it got really busy and the 9-1-1 line was ringing and no one was available and the supervisor says, ‘answer it’.” Gane sits up as she gets into her story. “It was a guy saying, ‘I’m going to kill myself’ and I was thinking to transfer him to the suicide hotline.” The call was transferred while the caller continued to sob. When the suicide hotline picked up it was only an automated system. She disconnected from the hotline and continued to speak to the caller.
“I start talking to him and his wife had left him. Every Thursday night, I’ll never forget this…He goes and gets groceries and when he came home there was a note from his wife that she was leaving him and she left him a tape, a cassette tape, like a letter on a tape. He put the tape in, heard part of it and the machine ate it.” She continued to speak to him but the caller kept putting the phone down. “I kept thinking I was going to hear a gun shot,” Gane explains. Luckily she did not hear a gun shot. Instead she was able to keep her cool and keep the caller talking long enough for the officers to get there.
She tells the story of her first 9-1-1 call as if it were yesterday. She’s spoken to many suicidal callers since then but recently she answered a call that made national news. On the morning of Feb. 28th 2012, Gane took a call from a suicidal subject who led police on a high-speed car chase. She could hear a man screaming hysterically with police sirens in the background. Gane used her experience, calm demeanor, and patience to persuade the caller to not only slow down but also pull over. “First I asked, how fast are you going? And then lets take it down to 50 and let me know when you get to 30 and he just started listening,” Gane explains. The call can be heard in its entirety here but if you do a simple Google search you can find reports from all over on how well Gane did during this call.
Gane continues to set the bar high for 9-1-1 dispatchers. She describes her job as one where, “nothing is easy, it’s constant problem solving.” There is no real break within the walls of dispatch and Gane attributes stress relief by having good co-workers. They, and her two daughters admire her. “My mom is the most hard working woman I know. She has taught me the work ethic that I have today, and I truly thank her for that.” In the end, Gane looks back at her career and how to stay ahead of the rest.
“You have to be able to put up with everything. Deal with the bad and the good and hopefully the good outweighs the bad.”
(Audio Source: 911dispatch.com)Post Views: 191