Natatia Bledsoe is the public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
Thank you to our 911 Dispatchers
National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, April 8 – 14, 2012
This week is a chance for all of us in Public Safety to shower appreciation on our co-workers who are so often forgotten: 911 Dispatchers.
Inside a secure room with tiny windows and no contact with the public except through the telephone, the Communications Officers of the Fredericksburg Police Department are on duty every day of the week, 24 hours per day. On weekends and holidays when most of us are enjoying our families or having fun with friends, they are staffing the phones and radios to make sure that emergency services are provided around the clock to the citizens in our City.
Dispatchers provide the lifeline between the people who need assistance and the emergency responders who arrive draped in all the glory of siren-equipped vehicles and badges of authority. Make no mistake, the City’s Police, Fire, and EMS providers are most assuredly the best of the best, but usually the very first sign of rescue for a panicked victim is the calming voice of a dispatcher saying: “911, where is your emergency?”
Because no matter who you are or where you are, and no matter the time of day or night and even on Christmas, the dispatcher on the other end of that line will get you help.
Author Michael Perry said it best, “Dispatchers have a tough gig. They function as interlocutor between two parties occupying various states of panic. They sort it out the best they can. It’s fascinating to think of them wherever they are, with their phone, their microphone, their maps, playing such a critical role in a drama where they never meet the other players. The dispatcher is hip-deep and detached, all at once. Think of a football coach locked in an office during the game, calling plays and relaying them to the quarterback based on reports given to him by a fan on a cell phone.”
In addition to answering the phones (which never stop ringing) and relaying information on the radio to first responders in the field, the list of responsibilities assigned to a dispatcher is simply enormous.
They provide emergency medical pre-arrival instructions to callers reporting illness or injury.
They are charged with keeping track of every on-duty police officer and every piece of fire and EMS apparatus available to respond in an emergency. They log, track, and update all criminal warrants and emergency protective orders maintained in our database, and they also enter the information for all stolen items and wanted persons in a national database, which requires a monthly audit to ensure accuracy.
They call wreckers for accidents, maintain communication with surrounding jurisdictions, and monitor the security cameras throughout our building.
They serve on committees and special teams such as Crisis Negotiating and Peer Support, and they volunteer their time with fundraising for Special Olympics and Law Enforcement United.
They track lost and found pets and try to reunite them with their owners before the otherwise obligatory trip to the pound. They arrange for injured wildlife to be connected with trained rehabilitators.
When needed, they operate as impromptu couples counselors to callers waiting for police arrival, they give parenting advice, and they are on speed dial for a few of our residents who are mentally ill.
They listen. They hear parents screaming when a baby stops breathing and the anguish of a spouse who finds a loved one dead. They hear the voices of the battered and bruised, the frightened, the angry, and they respond with help and with hope.
They are underappreciated, yet indispensable.
They have children, husbands, and personal lives which can not help but be affected by the small and large tragedies they experience daily through their work.
None of us in Public Safety could do our jobs without them, and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.