Girl on Fire: Dispatchers deserve recognition, too

[As seen in Creston News Advertiser, April 17, 2014]

What I love about having a column is being able to describe what so many people do in the community to make it a better place. This includes local fire departments and rescue teams, usually.

But, this week is dedicated to a group of people who are probably not normally included in the list of emergency responders: dispatchers.

I am friends with dispatchers, so I know what their job entails. There is stress involved with the job: making sure the address is right, not screwing up other information, listening to medical emergencies.

Even though Creston, as far as I am aware, did not celebrate National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, I want to applaud all public safety communicators.

It’s hard to recall any specific incident because, as a firefighter and reporter, I’m more focused on what is in front of me. But, right there, what is in front of me, that is why I respect dispatchers.

When dispatchers receive calls, they have absolutely no idea what to expect on the other end. The calls could be to report burning houses, fatal car crashes, heart attacks, strokes or any other thing imaginable.

Then, dispatchers must figure out who needs paged out. What is actually going on? Is the car accident serious enough the fire department is needed to extricate? How many paramedics are needed to transport a patient or patients to the hospital? Will flight paramedics be needed?

It can be difficult, as a firefighter and reporter in the same town, to realize that sometimes, dispatchers know only as much as we do. In that aspect, it can be scary in any position, not knowing what to expect, not knowing what is going to come next.

I think what I really want to say with this column is that dispatchers are very underappreciated. I won’t deny it, either, in saying I have probably been one of those who have been less than appreciative of local dispatchers. However, I want to change that about myself, and give recognition to those who deserve it.

So, because of this, I applaud all public safety telecommunicators because, somehow, in some way, they manage. They multitask. They stay calm. They relay as much information as they can get. They contact those who need to be contacted. They are the first point of contact in any severe, or nonsevere, situation. They relay the information the other first responders use to make situations better.

So, for all of that, I believe every city should celebrate National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week and celebrate the dispatchers in the country. They deserve it.

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