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Under Pressure

July 11, 2011

I always have one question for those who think they are interested in an emergency service career. “Do you enjoy working under pressure?” I’ve found that either you love it – working under pressure – or you hate it.

Complexity, danger, and manpower – those are three components that add to the pressure. That third component – manpower – is a singular component for one group of Stafford County emergency service providers. They call themselves “Dispatcher.”

Their names are – Jean, Melonda, Gina, Amy, Cassie, and Tammy.

Calls from citizens, firefighters, law enforcement officers, and medics – these calls sometimes come in all at the same time. And, they are all handled by the lone dispatcher.

So, what qualities does it take to be a great dispatcher? Here’s what one said; “A dispatcher must have patience, understanding, dedication, a caring personality – and most of all a sense of humor. You have to be able to laugh, especially at yourself.” Another added that “You must be good at working under pressure.”

The safety of emergency responders depends upon dispatchers. Critical information can sometimes be accessed by the dispatcher. Whether a shooter is still on scene, the presence of hazardous materials, or whether there are occupants in a house that’s on fire.

A dispatcher explained the effects caused by the challenge of securing accurate information. “It can be very draining physically and mentally. It is very hard to go home and not think about how you could have done things differently or better to achieve a better outcome.”

We usually recognize emergency responders when they do a great job. That is good. What isn’t good is that we often forget a key member of the team – the dispatcher.

The dispatcher is the first person to connect with an emergency and the last to disconnect. A tragedy affects a dispatcher just like it does the emergency responders. Sometimes the one they are communicating with is the life lost. And, sometimes the dispatcher is the last one to talk with the person who died.

The musical band Queen recorded a popular song called “Under Pressure.” Download it and play it periodically so you you can be reminded of those who really work “under pressure.” And, let’s make sure and throw a big party the second week of April – ‘National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.’

Stafford County Dispatchers – You are appreciated!

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