On December 20, 2016 at 10:15 a.m., Dispatcher Catie Guzman was on duty in the Communications Center for the University at Buffalo Police. The semester had just ended at UB and most of the students and faculty had left campus. It was what we refer to as ‘down time’ because our daily population goes from 40,000 people down to several hundred. No one expected any serious calls to come in for the next several days. When the emergency line rang, Dispatcher Guzman became a lifeline for a suicidal student.
We all understand how stressful holidays can be, add to that stresses to a student in academic and financial difficulties. The victim had decided that he was going to kill himself by jumping from the roof of one of the University’s tallest buildings. A quick check of our emergency camera system verified that the victim was indeed on the ledge. Dispatcher Guzman had to get the first officers on the way and notify her fellow dispatchers to get the rest of the team (Fire, EMS, Crisis Intervention Team) going. For the next 15 minutes, Dispatcher Guzman kept the victim talking.
To further compound the response the victim had chosen a roof area that was extremely isolated and challenging to get to. The Police Officers responding were having difficulty getting close enough to the victim. Dispatcher Guzman built a rapport with the victim, discussing the issue that had made the victim despondent. Dispatcher Guzman was able get enough information from the victim to allow her fellow dispatchers to make contact with the victim’s counselor. The information that Dispatcher Guzman collected assisted the Crisis Intervention Team members when they were finally able to make direct contact with the victim.
We had a positive outcome to this incident, due in large part to Dispatcher Guzman’s efforts and her humane, compassionate response to a victim in crisis.