A Family, A Friend, A Co-Worker and A Life Saver

Jennifer Siracusa, Emergency Communication Supervisor, Seminole County Fire Rescue

D-Shift-SCFD-Communications911 dispatch has been a part of my life since I was 23 years old, starting in the field in 2004. I started my career not knowing anything about this job or how it was going to change my way of thinking and how it was going to play a vital role in the person I became over the next 10+ years.

I could tell you that this job is hard, you go home thinking about it at night and the multi tasking skills required are UN human like, but then I would be telling you something you already know. So here is what I am going to tell you…

A Family – This job has given me a second family, like a fire house or a police station, communications centers all over the world are people from all walks of life sitting next to each for 8-12 hours or more within an arm’s reach of each other most of the time. Now unlike a fire house we don’t have beds or places to go and be alone when we don’t like something someone said or are just having a bad day. We are expected to form a team environment with the operators and supervisors in the room; if we don’t then the calls and field units can hear it, from our voices to our mistakes. So that makes us a family.  Now all families have cousins they don’t like or brothers that annoy them just like us, but in the end we are family. We spend more time with each other then we do at home. Our “work family” knows of our problems and celebrations first most of the time. We are a family of dysfunctional, loving and caring people, but yet still a family!

A Friend – This job has given me a friend. A friend in every person I meet, work with and talk to. From the field units, callers and co workers I find a friend. My friend doesn’t always have the same face and doesn’t always ask me how my day is but I know that friend is there when I need them. From not being able to locate an address to helping me decide what to order for lunch. My friend that when she doesn’t show up for work I start worrying because they’re always on time and always early. My friend who reminds me that I am human and I make mistakes. My friend who understands that it’s not my fault the CPR instructions I just provided for the last 9 minutes didn’t save the life of the patient, because in the end we both know I didn’t pull the trigger on the gun. My friend!

A Co-worker – This job gives me lots of co workers… now sometimes they turn into friends and family but the co worker is the one that maybe didn’t make it in the field of 911. The co-worker only stayed for 1 year or even 1 week, sometimes 1 day. We meet, I might have even interviewed them for the job and was super excited the day they started, but in the end the co-worker decided the job wasn’t for them. As 911 operators we see tons of co-workers come and go. What it reminds us is that we are the chosen ones and this job makes us super heroes because not everyone can be a super hero right? It reminds us that we have a skill that is second to none!

A Life Saver – This job has proven over and over again in my 10+ years that WE ARE LIFE SAVERS! How we handle a call from the phone ringing to the radio channel can save lives. We bring children into the world. We help a mother understand that having a new born and calling 911 because they won’t stop crying is pretty normal. We comfort a wife who just lost her husband of 50 years. We relentlessly provide instructions to a mother who is holding her lifeless child, while trying to calm her down and make sure she is doing everything we ask. We provide the personnel accountability to the Commanding Chief to ensure all his men and women are going home tonight and no one is left behind on a fire. The definition of “Saving a Life” to me is so much more than just saving a life … So we ARE LIFE SAVERS!

I grow everyday because of the profession I have chosen. I learn something every day that changes how I might handle something the next day. I currently hold the position of Supervisor in our 911 Center. If I could change my title to “Observer” I would… I know have the privilege of observing my family and friends save lives every day and grow into some of the best dispatchers I know! They aren’t perfect but they are my family, friends, co workers and LIVE SAVERS!

Thank you to every one of you not only during this 2016 Telecommunicator Week, but thank you for coming into work every day and night and being that Super Hero!