What means the most to me about being a Telecommunicator? I have thought and pondered this question since it was first posted, and every time I try to formulate an answer I keep changing my mind. I visit past calls for service in my head and that’s a lot of thoughts as I have been doing this since the late 1970’s. First as an Explorer where back then I could work the desk, then as a dispatcher for an agency that I eventually became a police officer for and stayed there for 30 years, and now as the Director of Communications in my home town.
My stores are my staff’s stories. I have been there when the call came in from the distraught wife who’s husband was threatening to kill himself and the dispatcher tried talking to him only to hear the gunshot go off over the phone. I have been there for the missing hikers, lost and alone during a cold fall evening. For the parent calling who had just found their child had hung themselves or for the infant unresponsive in their crib. I may have not answered the phone, but I was there for the ones that did.
It is my job to make sure that those men and women who are answering those 911 calls have the training and the skills to get help to those in need, it is my job to make sure that after those calls the staff has time to decompress and process what they have just heard or done. I can not be their friend, but I can be their anchor. I can not “hang out” with them or meet them after work, but I can celebrate for them those small life victories – getting married / buying their first home or having a child. But most of all I am here to make sure others in our community know what true heroes they are.
Yes, I have had those calls we all dread – or have been smack in the middle of the nightmare of an active shooter, that leaves a whole community crippled with grief. We cannot show that grief on the phones or radios, we must be the voice of calm and strength, at a time when we are crying inside. I belong to the group that has known first hand that nightmare.
What I take most pride in is the fact that I have been able to mentor the next generation of Telecommunicators by becoming involved within my profession. Teaching – training – supporting, not just my staff but countless other Telecommunicators across the country. I, along with other directors and managers stand tall behind/beside and in front of our staff, giving them the tools to provide the best possible assistance to our communities when they answer 911 – a routine line or come to our windows seeking help.
So, I may not be on the phone as so many of the Telecommunicators are everyday, answering those calls and calming those fears, but I am one of hundreds of dedicated directors/managers and supervisors who have that hand on the shoulders of the ones who do. We are the Communications Family, and we stand strong together for each other.