This is a live audience episode and it was recorded live on Mackinac Island, Michigan at the 2018 NENA/APCO conference. It all started at the Michigan NENA conference 5 years ago for this podcast. Much has happened since then. I am honored and blessed to be able to do this and share dispatch stories. They are the important ones that you don’t hear, but they are the ones that need to be heard. Since the time I started doing this, we have shared, we have healed and we have grown.
As always, if you have any comments, questions, or you would like to be a guest on the show, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you all for the support and for listening. If it wasn’t for all of you, I would not have made it to this epic episode 200. Here’s to many more…
Episode topics –
- IAM911 stories from the 9-1-1 professionals that make up the movement in Michigan
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By Ricardo — 6 years ago
A while back I posted on the show’s Facebook fan page regarding dispatch stories and guest posts. Up until about a week ago I had not received anything but recently I met a fellow dispatcher who was more than willing to share her story. Her enthusiasm and love for the job led her to many years of service behind the mic as well as becoming a writer, speaker and advocate. It is my hope that this inspiring story will encourage more people in the 9-1-1 community to step forward and share their story as a guest blog post or be a guest on the show. A big thanks goes out to Kathy for sharing her story and years of service. Please comment below, share this post and if you would like to do a guest post of your story please email me at email@example.com with the subject of “Within the Trenches – Dispatch Stories.” And without further ado, the dispatch story of Kathy.
“I joined Bay Shore Brightwaters Rescue Ambulance in the very early 80’s as a dispatcher because I couldn’t have managed the time constraints of EMT school. I was already working full time, going to school full time and raising my son alone. All I could manage, I thought, was the 6-8 hours a week to volunteer as a dispatcher. Because of all the other things I was doing, I chose to be a midnight dispatcher. The dispatch system was, in hindsight, so archaic. They allowed us to dispatch from home with a portable radio and home phone ~ but with an in house crew. There wasn’t always an in house crew so my living about half an hour away from Headquarters was a problem. The “tones” would go off and I would call HQ to see who was in the house and if anyone else was responding. More often than not we (Dispatchers) didn’t even know who was on the rig until they were back at HQ after the call when and if they called me to square away times etc. My job was to listen to the portable and jot down the times as heard between my rig and Med Com (Medical Communications). Every Dispatcher was responsible for lining up an overnight crew whether they pulled duty from home or HQ. If no crew was available, we then had to call Med Com and 24 the call to a neighboring Agency. As senseless as all that seemed to me, even back then, the Dispatcher didn’t seem to be all that important to the “riding” members. That really bugged me because every chance I got I went on calls with many of them to observe. I was soon voted into the Supervisor Of Dispatch position, which at that time was an Officers position. This was even before there was a Board of Directors at most Volunteer Ambulance Companies. As Supervisor my responsibilities grew and I found myself spending an awful lot of time at HQ. Dispatching from home was no longer an option but my position was met with great resistance by Heads of other Committees because, after all, I was just a Dispatcher. What could I possibly know about what type of crew was needed for which emergency? THIS bugged me to no end. There were charges filed against me and vice versa and was something that was constantly being addressed at the Officers Meetings. Shortly thereafter the members of BSBRA formulated the differences between the Officers and what we were inducting as The Board Of Directors. This delineation was eliminating the Officers position of Supervisor of Dispatch. Not the position itself but as an Officer. After a while, the politics and egos of all the new positions was just too much drama for me. I had been having serious health issues so I resigned from Bay Shore Rescue.
When my health returned I joined Brentwood Legion Ambulance. THEY seemed to appreciate the position of Dispatcher and were interested and excited about what I could bring to their organization having been at Bay Shore. There seemed to be a lot of walk in patients HQ by members of our community where only a Dispatcher was in house. I saw that as a problem and started looking in to how we could better train Dispatchers to assist the riding members with situations such as this. I had heard about the National Academy Of Emergency Medical Dispatchers (NAEMD) based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. This certification enabled a Dispatcher to give life saving instructions over the phone to stabilize a patient while dispatching an appropriate crew depending on the color code of the call. It didn’t do much to solve the “walk in” situation but did take Dispatching to a whole other level. Now to figure out how to get this done. I had also heard that Miles Quinn from Suffolk County Fire Rescue and Emergency Services had actually taken the steps needed to have his Dispatchers Certified. I, as a Dispatcher, couldn’t seem to get an appointment with the Board of Directors to address this situation so I asked Miles Quinn if he would address our Board and explain the whole thing and all it’s possibilities. He agreed, met with the Board and the Board said they would be interested IF it didn’t cost them any money. Back in the early 90’s, the cost per Dispatcher/per 3 day course was in the mid $200 range. I saw that as a challenge. I figured out that if Brentwood actually holds the classes and books enough Dispatchers, our Dispatchers would all be trained for free. First order of business was to get a listing of ALL Agencies in the Tri State area that used Dispatchers whether paid or volunteer and do a mailing. The feedback and interest was great ~ much more than I had anticipated. It was so exciting to see that process take on a momentum all it’s own. Long story short we at BLA, at my direction, held a good 8-10 classes of maybe 50 Dispatchers each. The classes lasted three full days, I had made arrangements with a local hotel to house a block of out of town Dispatchers for a discounted rate ~ I served coffee, tea and bagels and got hundreds of Dispatchers Nationally Certified through NAEMD. The New England Journal of Emergency Medicine interviewed me for an article they were running, printing portions of the letters I sent out to the various Agencies in the Tri State area ~ most of whom were from all over the State of New York. It, very quickly, became mandatory for ALL Dispatchers to have NAEMD Certification before dispatching anywhere. I stayed with Brentwood for a while longer and then my life took yet another turn and had to resign. I kept my EMD certification for a number of years recertifying when needed.
As a result of all my involvement with EMS and having worked in several ER’s simultaneously through the years my son, who was raised while I was at Bay Shore and joined Brentwood with me, became a member in Bay Shore and eventually became one of their Chiefs. Now my oldest grandchild is joining an explorer group with Brentwood becoming third generation Whittaker volunteering for a Rescue Squad making me extremely proud of everything I have managed to do. Yes, there are MANY people who have done much more than I but it is my experience you asked me about and this pretty much sums it up. Now all these years later, I am no longer EMD certified but the status of Emergency Medical Dispatcher has forever changed and continues to go forward. I am registered with the Smart911 Pulse Point system so that if someone in my area goes into cardiac arrest I will be alerted via my smartphone and respond to the scene pending an ambulance. The position of Dispatcher, for advanced as it has become, is still (in my humble opinion) under rated. I do, however, have great faith it will continue to grow and can only hope it will, one day, get the respect it deserves! Thank you for taking an interest in my history as a Dispatcher.”Post Views: 412
By Ricardo — 3 years ago
In this episode we go back in time a few years to when Curt, who lived down the street from the Kosciusko County 9-1-1 dispatch center fell out of a tree and his wife had to call 9-1-1. Sarah, was the call taker that day and in this one story, they both found out what the other was doing before and after the call. To bring them together and allow for closure was a great experience.
This is a must listen so please check it out and share it. As always if you have any comments, questions or you would like to be a guest on the show, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Episode topics –
Post Views: 483
- Curt’s side of the 9-1-1 call
- Sarah’s side of the 9-1-1 call
- Know your location
- And more
By Ricardo — 3 years ago
Guest blog post by Shae, 9-1-1 dispatcher out of central Indiana
This smile hurts my face.
I sit around the table for an early Christmas dinner, quietly wondering if anyone has noticed that my smile isn’t real. I’m having trouble faking. Family and extended family are all talking at once and it’s sensory overload.
I excuse myself and sit in the living room with the kids, realizing I have more in common with them than anyone my age – we’re both not interested in “grown up” talk. The houses, the cars, the material goods – they talk about their good fortune and maybe brag a little. And I sit there wondering what families aren’t as fortunate as theirs.
I’m not trying to be a snob, I just don’t have things in common with them anymore. The houses, the cars, the material goods. I’ve come to despise holidays, for the runs I’ve been on and the calls I’ve taken. Years as a medic and now a dispatcher too, my life’s mission to serve the people has cast a gloomier view on these holiday events.
That house we passed on the way to the store is where I’ve told a husband his wife of 60 years is gone. Those crosses by the bridge are where I watched a family of four die – unable to get to them quickly enough. The bag boy loading our Christmas groceries is spending another holiday without his mother – I know, I took his call.
The nightmares I have will never end, I’ve been invited into some of the most intimate moments in people’s lives. I’ve seen pain and suffering, taking it home with me to nestle in bed, awake and scared that their fate will become my own. Worried that what’s worse, it will eventually stop effecting me and that’s when I’ll know it’s time to hang it up.
I’ve got PTSD. Those four letters are hard to say. I’ve spent time afraid that if I say it out loud, someone will question me why – and they do. I feel shame, like what I have I didn’t deserve. They think PTSD is for soldiers, and I’m just a dispatcher. I can’t begin to explain it so I shrug my shoulders and walk away, knowing that someone else’s pain and suffering is now a part of me as a person and I can’t begin to make sense of it for them.
Family gatherings like this are exhausting, for the well meaning but always annoying questions about work, about my worst call. They want to live through me, feel a thrill of a life saved but most of the stories that I carry around aren’t happy ones. No one really wants to know unless it’s a happy one. So I make something up, hoping that it will satisfy them for the moment, and it does. I can go back to sitting at the kids table, content in their chatter.
I look forward to being able to go home, and just be by myself. My own demons feel like better company sometimes. They’re familiar at least. I know what to expect. It’s not that I don’t love my family, I just can’t make them understand and that feels more exhausting to me.
So I smile, nod my head and sit there quietly just waiting to go home.Post Views: 519