A Vital Element: Dispatch
We are not alone.
This tenet is nothing new in law enforcement, or any public service for that matter. The idea that somebody will come, somebody will help, and somebody is listening is engendered within the law enforcement culture. We (officers) all realize that we cannot do this job alone, and we significantly rely on each other, the public, other agencies (law enforcement, fire department, EMS), and a group that has as much contact with the public as any one of us, dispatchers.
We work within a large, dynamic system. Unfortunately, the people that we serve, do not always get to see the entirety of this system. In addition, when they do have the opportunity to interact with some facet of the structure, it is almost always under circumstances that are not ideal. We show up in people’s most dire situation and try to return the situation to a state of normalcy.
But what about people that witness these significant life events needing emergency intervention by members of the public safety community? They are also burdened with undue stress, panic, and feelings of helplessness. Their first communication with the system is with a civilian dispatcher, trained to field an array of calls for assistance, obtain necessary information, dispatch appropriate personnel, and relay vital information to those responding. With nearly 250 years of combined experience, dispatchers put everything they have into answering well over 300,000 phone calls from citizens of this city.
This week, I had the pleasure of reading a thank you note sent to officials within the city. The note detailed an event witnessed by a citizen of this community. This person was going about her daily routine when she witnessed an intense car crash. She immediately called 911 to get help to the scene. As she stopped to help the driver, she heard in the background that another dispatcher was also answering a 911 call from somebody inside a nearby residence.
While still on the phone, the person was able to hear other dispatchers communicating valuable information to one another, working as a team, and coordinating an emergency response from police, fire, and EMS. All this happened seamlessly and in real-time. The person that called 911 was able to witness parts of the system that go unseen by the majority of our community. She talked to one dispatcher, heard other dispatchers communicating, and saw police, firefighters, and EMS arrive to render aid. The driver was ultimately transported to one of our local hospitals for further treatment.
In making observations about the incident, the woman commented regarding police at the scene, “The AWESOME part is how much CARE was shown by the initial responding officer.” Police took the report, arranged for a tow, blocked traffic, and drove a family member to the hospital. But most importantly, officers at the scene showed compassion for the crash victim, a family member that arrived, and witnesses to a scary situation. But the officers were not the only ones to do this. Dispatchers rarely have the opportunity to interact face-to-face with members of the community and therefore, are often overlooked as being vital parts of the larger system. They are the first point of contact and the impetus for officers, firefighters, and medics to respond.
The Lafayette community is a great place to live, work, and raise a family. People do not hesitate to call when somebody needs help. And we are thankful to have members of the community to answer those calls with compassion, empathy, and diligence.
We are not alone. And neither are you.