NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATOR’S WEEK
APRIL 9 – 15, 2017
Did you know that there is a week set aside every year, dedicated solely to show appreciation to the hard-working dispatchers of departments across the country? It’s hard to believe, but there are many people who are unaware of this special week. Even harder to believe, there are still departments who do not recognize National Telecommunicator’s Week, or their dispatchers.
National Telecommunicator’s Week began in 1981, thanks to Patricia Anderson from Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office in California. It’s celebrated the second week of April each year, and offers a time for much-deserved thanks for our dispatchers.
A dispatcher is generally the first point of contact, the true first responder, and the unseen hero. A dispatcher’s job is a complicated one. It is exciting, rewarding, fulfilling, and becomes a way of life. It is also stressful, exhausting, thankless, and forgotten by so many.
If you need to ask what your dispatcher has done for you lately, here are some things we do during a shift. We answer calls from hysterical people, and use only our voices to calm them down, and do our best to help them until other first responders arrive on the scene. We do this without seeing a scene, only imagining the horror that must be going on. Responders arrive, we disconnect the call, and it’s on to the next caller. There is no closure, there is no processing what we just heard, there are only sounds left to replay in our heads.
We run license plates, driver’s license numbers, check for warrants, make phone calls, whatever our officers need us to do – and we do it as close to the speed of sound as possible. We can hear the urgency in our officer’s voices over the radio. We panic when we don’t hear the officer’s voices over the radio. We are emotionally invested in everything that our officers are doing. When you celebrate, so do we. When you cry, so do we. When you’re angry, so are we. We are your lifeline, and everything that happens to you, we take personally.
We carry our jobs home with us, just like you do. We have marriage problems, stress, alcoholism and drug use, anger, sleeplessness, nightmares, and PTSD. Just because we are not on the scene, does not mean that we aren’t affected. Twenty years later, I can still hear panic in the female’s voice, just before her boyfriend shot himself in the head as he was lying in the bed next to her. Fifteen years later, I can still hear my officer yelling, “Shots fired, shots fired!” Ten years later, I can still hear the sheer terror and panic as a mother is begging me to help her breathe life into her newborn baby. Five years later, I can still hear a woman’s final breath through my headset, as tears ran down my cheeks.
Dispatchers are a rare breed. A good dispatcher can be on a 911 call giving pre-arrival instructions, entering information into CAD, checking on an officer on a traffic stop, running a license plate, all while taking a bite of lukewarm food, craving a cigarette and wondering how our sick child is. Dispatchers prove that multi-tasking does exist, and we can kick ass doing it!
Show your dispatchers some love, respect and appreciation this week. Take in a flower; a piece of fruit, a card, candy, or just a heartfelt “thank you” would be wonderful. A dispatcher’s job is thankless, and they all deserve a week of recognition and honor.