Hello and welcome to episode 93 of Within the Trenches. I am back from the national NENA conference that was held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. It was an excellent week of networking, learning, presenting and podcasting. In this episode I got the chance to speak with Andrew, an instructor with Public Safety Training Consultants.
This is a very short and sweet episode that I hope you enjoy. I usually record a longer episode but Andrew was about to give a class at the conference. I am going to get a hold of him for a much longer episode in the future so stay tuned for that.
As always if you have any questions or would like to be a guest on the show, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Episode topics –
- How Andrew got into dispatching
- What it was like for him
- A brief overview of the class he was teaching
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By Ricardo — 5 months ago
I recently sent someone an #IAM911 story. The person responded saying that the story was heart wrenching but they asked a question after that, “can you tell me what it’s like to be on the receiving end of these calls?” The following was my response.
Imagine your brother has been dealing with a bad break up. You go to the bar and after a few drinks he tells you he wants to kill himself. You tell him to stop talking like that. It’s not the end of the world. You head home and when you arrive your brother mentions suicide again. Fed up with what he is saying you go inside, grab a gun and take it outside. You hand it to your brother and say, “If you really want to then do it.” You think that he will realize how stupid of an idea this is and will change his mind but…he grabs the gun and shoots himself in the head killing himself in front of you.
Now imagine you’re 9-1-1, receiving this call and only hearing screams. It sounds like two females screaming over the phone. You ask, “What’s your address? Ma’am? Can you hear me?” The screaming continues and you type out, “Unknown situation.” You remember a technique from your training and bring your voice to a whisper tricking the caller into thinking no one is there.
The screaming stops, “Hello? Hello?”
“This is 9-1-1, what’s your address and what is going on?”
While she tells you the address you hear screaming in the background.
“I CAN’T BELIEVE HE DID IT! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!”
“Who is there with you?”
“My boyfriend and his brother who shot himself outside.”
“Who is the other female screaming?”
“That was my boyfriend…”
You realize the pain in the boyfriend and although you are strong and calm on the phone, in the back of your head all you can think about is your own brother.
“Ma’am, the police and ambulance are on the way.”
“The ambulance is coming ok?”
You hear your caller try to comfort her boyfriend but you hear him yell something that you will never forget.
“What the hell is an ambulance going to do? My brother’s face is all over the snow!”
The screaming continues and you hear your caller yell that her boyfriend now has the gun. He yells that he wants to kill himself. You tell her to get away from him and he eventually drops the gun and runs back outside. Police arrive and what felt like 15 minutes worth of chaos was more like 3 minutes. Police secure the boyfriend outside and rush in to check out the caller. She continues to cry and says thank you. You hang up the phone and sit there in shock.
“Are you ok,” your supervisor asks.
“Yeah I’m good,” you respond.
But you’re not good. You’re rocked and the screams echo in your head. For the next 3 hours they echo in your head and all you want to do is call your own brother just to hear his voice.
When you finally get the chance you tell him you love him. He asks what happened and after you tell him about the call he says, “I love you too.”
This is what it is like to be on the receiving end of these calls. This was a call that I took and this was years ago but I can still hear those screams of heartache. It never goes away. It is always there but you face it and manage it. I have said that taking a 9-1-1 call is like getting in a car, slamming the gas pedal and letting go of the steering wheel. I used to bury these calls and I caused more damage that way. Now I talk about them and it’s therapeutic for me. A big thing to understand is that 9-1-1 dispatchers are not drones. We don’t JUST answer the phone. We are there with you throughout the entire call and we may be calm and at the top of our game but in the back of our minds we are feeling your emotion. After the call, if there is time, we can reflect on it but the majority of the time? We pick up the next call and have no time to decompress.
I hope this answers your question…
RicardoPost Views: 8,466
By Ricardo — 7 years ago
For this entry I would like to talk about a call I took that rocked me to my core. When I think back it still gives me goosebumps. This situation was enough for me to write a memoir on it for a class I had several months ago. The memoir was suppose to be about something that occurred in my life that made me change something. I wrote about growing up with my siblings and thinking that nothing could ever break us apart. My brother and I were close but I somewhat took him for granted because I felt he would always be there. It took one extreme moment to finally make me realize that at any moment a loved one can be stripped away from you. Cherish the time that you have because you never know when it will end. The following is an excerpt from my memoir and I cut it as short as possible because it is six pages long. The names in the memoir other than my own and my brother are made up as well as the address. No identities are revealed here what so ever.
“9-1-1 where’s your emergency?”
This is something I asked every day and you always know when you are going to have a bad call. I say this because as soon as you pick up the phone you hear the screams. They are the screams of a horror movie except this horror is real. This call was no different and I immediately heard what I thought were two women screaming.
“Ma’am? Hello? Ma’am can you hear me?”
The screaming continued, the camel hair on the back of my neck stood at attention. My co-worker to the right looked toward me and I shook my head not knowing what was going on.
“Ma’am can you hear me?”
When a caller is screaming hysterically, secondary voices are just background. It takes a little longer to get through but you do the best you can. The screams of heartache and tragedy continued. I brought my voice down to a whisper to almost trick the caller into thinking there was no one there.
“Ma’am can you hear me?”
“Hello?! Is someone there?”
“Yes”, I answered with authority. “What’s your address?”
She stumbled over her words as the person in the background continued to scream. I could hear stuff being thrown around and I thought it was a domestic call.
“4357 Madison Dr.”, she blurted, trying to hold back from a melt down.
She continued with her name and phone number and the screams were growing. Something else had happened here but the caller was hard to understand. The police were already on their way and I was first in line to figure out what happened.
“Ma’am? I need to know what is going on.”
“I can’t believe he did it,” yelled a person in the background.
The screams turned into rage and the voice in the background sounded more and more like a male.
“Julie what’s going on? Who else is there?”
“It’s just me and my fiancé.”
“Who was screaming in the background? I thought there was another girl there with you?”
“No, that was him.”
“Why were you screaming? The police are on their way but you need to tell me what is going on.”
“Well my fiancé John, his brother Mike, and I were at the bar. Mike just got out of a relationship and he’s been depressed for the past week now. He kept telling us that he…that he…”
“That he was going to do what Julie?”
“That he was going to kill himself and we brushed it off.”
I frantically typed as she spoke and officers were almost there. One of my co-workers had already sent EMS to stage in the area until we knew for sure what was going on. My body was hot and sweat began to build between my ear and the phone.
“Then what happened?”
“We…we got home and he started saying it again. John went and got a shotgun, and told him that if he was going to do it to go ahead. He didn’t think he was going to do it but he shot himself in the head.”
I gasped and held my breath for a moment. I fell into their shoes and the thought of losing my younger brother swarmed my senses. Thinking that he would always be there was just me lying to myself. Tragedy could strike at any moment and I was currently listening to a grown man scream for his brother.
“Where is John now? Where’s the gun?”
“I don’t know? I think he went…Oh my god!”
“What’s going on Julie?!”
“John’s got the gun, he’s got it!”
For a moment I thought I would hear a gunshot. He yelled and screamed that it was his fault and that he did not think his brother would do it. I could feel his pain and I thought of my brother.
“Go to a different room Julie! Get away from him!”
“He just put it back down and went back outside…I’ll put it away.”
The police arrived and Julie broke down. The adrenaline was slipping away and she was no longer the strong one. She broke just as John did and I felt their pain within me. The call lasted less than six minutes but when taking a phone call like this, it’s a lifetime.
Afterward, I only thought of my brother. I thought about how I treated him and how I thought he would always be there. Nothing could tear us apart but after taking this call I realized that it could easily end before either of us knew it. When my shift ended I called my brother. It was very early in the morning but I had to speak to him.
“Rich? What’s wrong man?”
“I love you dude.”
“What? I love you too.”
“No man, I’m serious.”
I told him about my call. I told him that it killed me inside to think that I could lose him as fast as the people that dealt with their own loss. It finally made sense to me and it took a tragedy for me to come to this conclusion. It’s funny how it takes something extreme for one to realize the truth but maybe that is what we need; a swift kick in the ass to jump start the senses and the mind. After I told my brother about the call he understood why I needed to speak to him so bad. He replied with,
“I love you man.”Post Views: 402
By Ricardo — 7 years ago
I meant to type this up last night but I was so overwhelmed with laughter and tending to my baby daughter that I couldn’t get through it. So here’s the situation; I have a 7 year old who knows how to use the bathroom perfectly but one downside is the fact that he has bad aim. How do you deal with this? He continues to say sorry but the floor falls victim to the stream. I’ve made him clean it up himself and it seems to work for a while but then he goes back to it. So last night there was a puddle on the floor next to the toilet and I brought my son into the bathroom to see the destruction.
“Alright dude what’s up with this?”
My son stared at the puddle and I could tell he was thinking hard about what to say next.
“I don’t know dad…I didn’t do it.”
“You didn’t do it?”
“No I didn’t. I did it yesterday.”
“Ok, so you did it yesterday but you didn’t do it?”
“Ugh! Ok wait, yeah I did do it but…”
“You need to aim bud. Point and shoot.”
He shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.
“I try to aim dad. I try and aim and it just goes all over the place and I can’t control it.”
I bit my lip and tried to stay in discipline-dad mode but I couldn’t.
“You know what buddy!? You just stay here a moment!”
I walked out, shut the door and went to the living room where I proceeded to bust up laughing. I couldn’t help but do it because he was so serious and I tried to stay in character but his response caught me completely off guard. For a moment I flashed back to when I was growing up and my brother and I got in trouble for doing the exact same thing. Where my boy seemed to be actually trying to control it, my brother and I were doing it on purpose. Growing up at home our bathroom had this small hole on the floor next to the toilet. For whatever reason I would aim for that hole before finishing off in the toilet. Yeah, I was being a little jerk but I didn’t know my brother was doing the same thing until our mother yelled at us to clean the corner and he said that he had been doing the same thing.
We were having fun and being punks like most boys. As I type this up I can’t help but think that I am now paying for what I did back then. After I laughed in the living room I went back into the bathroom with my son.
“Look bud, you just need to try to aim for the toilet ok?”
“Alright dad, I’ll try.”
“Just remember that every time you do this you will have to clean the floor.”
Once he cleaned it up he went to bed. I laughed to myself at his response and as I laughed my wife came out of the bathroom.
“What are you talking about?”
“Well it looks like the sprayer for the diapers is leaking and that’s what was by the toilet.”
Yep, my boy took one for the team but he at least learned a lesson right? We’ll see how much he learned since he has a tendency to leave the door open when he goes to the bathroom. I suppose boys will be boys but have any of you dealt with this yet? If so, what have you done? What I’m doing is working so far but it would be funny to see what others have gone through. Parenting and art of aiming…yep that’s the dilema in my home at this time…parenting and the art of aiming.Post Views: 218