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Can you tell me what it’s like?

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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.


“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…



#IAM911 #ThisIsMe

On August 24th, 2016 I inserted myself into the battle for reclassification. I wanted to prove how different 9-1-1 dispatchers were from clerical workers and commercial dispatchers by sharing anonymous stories from the Thin Gold Line. You answered the call to action by sharing all over the world and with a mere glimpse into a call you opened the eyes of millions. You gave a raw look into dispatch like no one has ever done before. You changed the media, the general public, Industry Partners and those out in the field. You are a vital piece of public safety and you gained massive recognition. I am so proud of each and every one of you and honored to know so many of you.

A month after the movement was born, a companion called Project #IAM911 was launched revealing the faces that make up the movement. The intent was to humanize the voice within the trenches. Hundreds of dispatchers sent in pictures with #IAM911 on their hands and signs revealing who they are and that they are human. Imagine Listening followed as an extension to the podcast sharing the stories that have been submitted for the movement saying that, “Your worst day is our everyday.” The #IAM911 movement continues to grow, stories are posted daily and as we approach the 2nd anniversary, the day we let the world know who we are and what we do, the movement will continue with a segment in the form of #IAM911 #ThisIsMe.

What I am looking for this time is a picture of you in dispatch or in every day life. I want you to share a glimpse into your dispatch experience, good or bad. Give me your honest, raw, look at what it has been like for you. Pictures have been posted as examples. Just remember to use #IAM911 #ThisIsMe. If you would like to do a team photo and share a glimpse into a team experience then please use #IAM911 #ThisIsUs. Let’s continue to show the world who we are and what we do. Let’s show them that when they hurt, we hurt. We are human and this is us.

Here’s to the coming anniversary. #IAM911 #ThisIsMe #ThisIsUs

Please send your memes to the Facebook podcast inbox, Twitter DM, Instagram DM or email us at If you do not know how to create a meme you can send your image and experience and we will put it together and post it.

Within the Trenches Ep 184

Welcome to another episode of Within the Trenches, true stories from the 9-1-1 dispatchers who live them. Episode 184 features Maranda and Tonya, dispatchers with Marshall County out of Kentucky. This is a powerful yet emotionally driven episode.

Unsung heroes: 911 dispatchers open up about Marshall County HS shooting – Web (article/video mentioned in episode)

Episode topics –

  • Maranda’s 9-1-1 story
  • Tonya’s 9-1-1 story
  • Marshall County HS shooting

As always if you have any comments, questions, topic suggestions or you would like to be a guest, send an email to

Saturday Morning Cartoons…I miss you.

For the past 45 minutes my family and I have been watching intro’s to the Saturday morning cartoons I watched when I was growing up. I think my wife was the first one to talk about the Gummi Bears and we went from there. We sang what we could remember from the theme song and then I went to YouTube to find the intro. After watching it and seeing the look on my 7 year olds face I had to play more. I felt like a little kid again watching these intro’s and it took me back. I remember waking up early as all hell with my little brother, before my sisters were born of course, and getting a box of cereal and a gallon of milk and turning on the tube to watch some cartoons. I remember we would destroy the box of Honey Combs, Pacman, Captain Crunch or Smurf cereal and almost the entire gallon of milk. If we didn’t want cereal we would snag a box of honey grahams or Oreo’s and we were set for the morning. Did my parents care? Hell no! They got to sleep in and now that I’m a parent I understand that sleep is a lot better. This is especially true now because the Saturday morning cartoons blow!

I have been up a few times and watched cartoons with my boy and it’s not the same. They have revamped Sonic the Hedgehog and the bad guy who looks exactly like Dr. Robotnik is actually named Dr. Eggman. At first I was baffled and told Logan this was not Dr. Eggman, it was Robotnik and a few weeks later he schooled me on it.

“Hey dad, you remember Dr. Eggman?”

“Umm…you mean Robotnik?”

“Uh…yeah well it’s not Robotnik. You want to know why?”

“Sure buddy, tell me what you know.”

“Well, last week on the show they said that Robotnik is Eggman’s grandfather. So…”

Yep! That’s right, I got schooled by my kid. It’s all good though, at least he knows about Robotnik…umm let’s move on shall we. They also have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but they’re many many years into the future and it’s just odd. Dragon Ball Z is still cool but everything else blows! Bring back The Gummi Bears, Shirt Tales, Ducktales, Darkwing Duck, Talespin, The Wuzzles, Snorks, Muppet Babies, Heathcliff, and all the other badass cartoons that I had growing up. Bring back the early Nickelodeon which was actually Pinwheel. After morning cartoons on Saturday it was on to Pinwheel where one could watch Mr. Wizard and You Can’t Do That On Television. Then when I got a little older and Pinwheel turned into Nickelodeon we had Snick on Saturday nights where one could watch “Are You Afraid of The Dark?”

I could go on and on and on but there are way too many to mention here. If I did I would have to dip into the Disney Channel with Kids Incorporated and Good Morning Ms. Bliss, which turned into an NBC hit and renamed “Saved By The Bell”. Anyway, I just wanted to write about this since we spent so much time looking at video’s on all these cartoons. We had the golden age of Saturday morning cartoons and now our kids have crap. I believe there is a channel called Boomerang that has all the old shows but it’s not the same. If anyone can remember any other cartoons let me know! Cheers!


Within the Trenches Ep 181

Welcome to another episode of Within the Trenches, true stories from the 9-1-1 dispatchers who live them. Episode 181 features Aaron, dispatcher with Carroll County and Cody, head of the popular Facebook Page Nocturnal Dispatchers as well as a dispatcher with Boone County out of Iowa. This episode was recorded at the Iowa APCO conference.

Iowa APCO – Facebook | Web

Episode topics –

  • Aaron’s 9-1-1 story
  • Cody’s 9-1-1 story
  • A story of PTSD
  • Calls that stick with you
  • The lighter side of 9-1-1
  • And more

As always if you have any comments, questions, topic suggestions or you would like to be a guest, send an email to

Within the Trenches Ep 164


Ep 164 features the co-founder of The Healthy Dispatcher, Adam Timm. In this episode Adam gives an overview of his history from 9-1-1 dispatcher to health and mental wellness advocate. He talks about the first ever 9-1-1 Training Summit held in Charlotte, North Carolina in partnership with the Denise Amber Lee Foundation. We also talk about resolutions for the new year and what we can do to avoid stress in the workplace.

This is a must listen! As always if you have any comments, questions or you would like to be a guest on the show send an email to

The Healthy Dispatcher – Facebook | Twitter | Web

Denise Amber Lee Foundation – Facebook | Twitter | Web

Episode topics –

  • The Healthy Dispatcher overview
  • 9-1-1 Training Summit
  • Avoiding stress in the workplace for the new year
  • And more
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