The following is in direct response to the Facebook comments of the policeone.com article “Should dispatchers be officially classified as first responders?” written by Melissa Mann. The article itself is great but there are some people who think we should not be reclassified or that we are not “in the shit” like the public safety personnel who are on scene.
“I am NOT a first responder”
Written by: Daphanie Bailes – Within the Trenches Admin, In Between the Chaos columnist for IAED & Senior Telecommunicator and Communications Training Coordinator for Martin County Fire Rescue
I’m not a first responder, that’s what lots of people say. How can you be a first responder, you just sit in a room. I would like to invite those who feel that way, to step into my world. The world of the faceless, the nameless. The world where I am only known by the sound of my voice. A voice that can portray everything from love to loathing. A voice that can give me away if I dwell on the fight at home, the fourth nastygram email of the day, the last bad 911 call or anything else that can affect my emotions. A world where I juggle the feelings associated with multiple calls, all at once. A world where I very rarely hear “Thank you” or “I want to do that when I grow up”. My world encompasses so much more than those four walls or my own voice. It is the voice of every caller or administrator on the phone, every firefighter and paramedic or EMT on the radio. It also includes the voices that don’t go away when I hang up the phone or walk out the door or try to close my eyes.
I know I wasn’t the first person to put my boots on the ground but my voice was the first you heard. I broke thru language barriers to keep you safe. I instructed your loved one to give you lifesaving breaths until help could arrive. I told you to hide and kept you calm while evil walked past your closet door. I heard your wife’s screams when she realized you were beyond help. I talked to you and distracted you long enough for help to get there and take the gun from your hand. I used every resource available so we could find you when you rolled your car off the highway. I was with you when you took your last breaths. I felt your frustration and fear when the water was just too rough for you to help her. I reassured you when you begged for the minutes to disappear and for the ambulance to arrive. I shouldered your obscenities and continued to be your calm when you found your overdosed son. I prayed that you were at peace after you finally stopped the voices in your head. I told you to sing to your sweetheart, to calm him, to drown out the rest of the noise while we waited for EMS and Fire to find your mangled truck. I was the first to hear your tiny but strong cries after you made your grand entrance into this world and silently cried tears of joy with your family.
I prayed when I heard your ‘Mayday’ call. I prayed because you are my brother or sister and when you hurt, I hurt. I train and learn every day, beyond what is required, because I am the one and only person who is not allowed to be caught off guard and not know what to do. So many lives desperately depend on me to know what to do or who to call and to make it happen in the blink of an eye.
In a way, those people are correct. I’m not a first responder by the purest definition. I am a highly trained Public Safety Telecommunicator. I am THE FIRST RESPONDER. I am the first to respond to that emergency with life-saving instructions. I am the first to alert law enforcement, fire and medical personnel to the cries for help. I am the first to hear and feel heartache and joy from people I will never know. I am the first to comfort those souls in need. And I will be the first to invite you into these four walls and experience my world. Not because I want a pat on the back or have grandiose feelings of superiority, but because I want you to understand it.