Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Tribute to All Those Who Answer 911 Everyday...

I posted this blog in February of 2010.  I am sharing it again as a tribute to my dispatchers here in Hood County.  This week is: National Public Safety Telecommunications Week. 

I recently heard an audio recording of a little 5 year old girl who called 911, because her father was experiencing shortness of breath and other tell-tale signs of a heart attack. The conversation the dispatcher had with the little girl is priceless. She was very responsible and did everything the dispatcher asked her to do. She was also a prim and proper little girl who was quite concerned that she would still be in her pajamas when the firefighters showed up at her home to help her dad!

I have been working with police and fire communications personnel for over 21 years now. As one of them put it some years back:  "We enjoy telling our officers where to go…"  Most days they are not dealing with cute and responsible 5 year olds.

I was with an officer one night when a man ripped the phone out of the wall, as his wife was on the line with a dispatcher; screaming for help. Another dispatcher fought back tears, as she sent me to a home where a 4 year old boy had reportedly drowned in a pool. When people come home and discover that a loved one is deceased, the communications operator is often the first person to hear the news. I could tell countless stories. It is a stressful job.

In my role as a law enforcement chaplain, I see how events begin and come to an end as well. There is some form of immediate closure, because I am in the field dealing with the situation at hand. Communications personnel hang up the phone or dispatch units to provide assistance, and they are often left hanging emotionally. The units eventually clear the scene, but what happened? How are the people doing? There are a so many questions….

Several years ago I worked with a dispatcher who sent two officers on a call that led to their death. She felt personally responsible for their untimely deaths.  Of course that conclusion is not at all based in reality, but that is how she felt!  The stress was unbelievable.

I communicated this week with a dispatcher I served with in the 1990’s. She has since moved on to another line of work. She is a very special person. A number of years ago the show Rescue 911 did a segment on a critical situation that involved her 4 year old son. Thankfully it had a happy ending! Talking to her this week reminded me that I am fortunate to have excellent dispatchers to serve with. They are special people that have a unique calling. Ok…so they do enjoy telling me where to go…I am on call and ready to respond to wherever they want to send me. I am also here to serve them as well in a spirit of mutual respect.

A Dispatcher's Prayer

Dear Lord, help me keep safe those who depend on me.

Give me healthy ears, for they are my link with those who need me.
Keep my mind sharp and alert, my fingers quick and nimble.
Grant that I never forget how to do ten things at once,
and do them all equally well.
Bless me with patience Lord.
Patience to deal with the public, with the officers, with the boss,
and with everyone else who makes me want to grip my teeth and yell.
Give me nerves of steel, that I may listen to a mother screaming
for her child to live, the man with a gun,
or an officer yelling for backup, and not give way to panic.
Grant me empathy, that I may help the battered wife, the rape victim,
the abused child, and not cause them more pain then they already have.
God, give me the ability to learn what I need, to remember it quickly,
and give me the wisdom to use the knowledge properly.
Bless my family Lord, for they will have to make sacrifices to shift work,
overtime, canceled plans and times when I just can't take on one more thing.
Help them understand the missed ball games, school programs and dinners for two.
Lord, give me courage, courage to persevere when I feel undervalued,
unappreciated, overworked and unrecognized.
Courage to keep trying when I feel in my heart it's hopeless.
Last of all Lord, help me to never forget,
why I chose this job in the first place,
to never lose sight of what is important in the midst of the stress.
Help me to remember that I make a difference,
however small it may seem some days, and that I matter.
I am a dispatcher, Lord, grant me peace.

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