By: Radio Communications Dispatcher – Reycca Dotson-Middleton
Dickenson County, Virginia
Coming up on my seventh year as a dispatcher for police, fire and rescue in our small county in Virginia, approximate population of sixteen thousand citizens, we are tiny compared to some. We have three town police agencies, three EMS agencies, four fire agencies as well as our county deputies we dispatch for.
Some days I come in and/or leave feeling like there’s nothing I love about this job. I chock that up to a little burn out, it happens every now and then. Other times I come in ready to conquer the world and go home feeling like a champ. If it weren’t for the days that make you want to pull your hair out you wouldn’t appreciate the days that make you want to dance.
My first week was absolutely terrifying. Listening in on calls, learning the computer functions, proper radio etiquette, just learning everything necessary to perform my job duties and processing the fact that I was going to be responsible for more people than I’ve known in my whole life in some respect for as long as I am employed here.
Overwhelming, to say the least. It certainly made me think about it in an all new perspective. With that being said, my very first call on my own which was supervised of course, was a call from an address I recognized.
There for Family
Panic set in, but with a sick feeling I took the call that my aunt that had been battling cancer had passed away in her sleep.This may sound cold, but it was a blessing in disguise. Being behind the scenes and anonymous to the reporting party and staying calm had set the ground work for me to learn to stay calm and professional during any call, all the while trying to provide comfort or reassurance during another’s emergency. I later had my own melt down and have had several since. I’ve also had reason to celebrate and chose to do so.
Personnel come and go in all of our agencies, it’s normal, it’s stressful from every aspect and burn out does occur. Those of us that have been together and those that come and go build not only a professional relationship, but become an extended family. That’s one of the greatest feelings that is associated with this job. I love that I know they have my back as I have theirs and I can tell that gratitude after every “code four, central” after a status check.
There for Each Other
Just a year or so back I became so sick at work that I fell out in the floor from pain. Two deputies that had come into the center for paperwork loaded me up in a car and with lights and sirens took me to the ER. They could have dumped me and left but the stuck around for a bit and then others came in and out to check on me up until I was transferred to another facility for admittance.
I don’t know of anywhere else that I have worked that would have went that far for me. Again, it’s that extended family feeling.
There for Community
I love knowing that the one man who calls like clockwork with what he considers his emergency knows our voices. I was a favorite so he was always friendly to me, others weren’t so lucky. After many deputy dispatches and investigations it turns out that “hippies and dope heads” weren’t stealing the tin off of his roof, but he was adamant every other day that it was indeed happening.
He was an elderly man, alone and possibly had some sort of dementia. If for just a moment I provided some sort of human contact to him then I’ve done OK. When he died a few years later due to an ATV accident it only takes a few days for me to realize I’d miss him. At his funeral I sat in a church pew by myself, not knowing a soul, finally ale to put a face to a name, and cried like he was a long time friend. In a way he was.
There’s also the feeling of joy you get out of having to call the Sheriff at 3 AM to let him know you’ve sent a positive hit response on a wanted murderer and have the paperwork ready to be picked up in the morning to get him. Even though there’s only paperwork on my part I get a sense of relief knowing that there’s another bad one that’s been found! Thank you NCIC!
There for the Right Reasons
Other days that terminal and all of the entries and checks make me want to scream from frustration. There’s always the bad to go along with the good.
Other times I hate the circumstances of the call, but I love, love, love the outcome. The adrenaline of sending that rescue squad, fire department and deputy to a drowning child call and when all is over knowing they were going to be alright.
Why? Because with speed and efficiency CPR was started and like lightning, responders arrived and saved this kid. I had a part in that and it’s a great feeling. That’s when my work partner and I do our happy dance. Forever from that point I will never be more over alert to my own children while swimming, but is that a bad thing?
Being such a small area there will inevitably be the calls you get that break your heart; a neighbor’s house burning down, a family member having to call for rescue, a former classmate committing suicide and having to be on the phone with his brother while he takes his last breath.
That’s all happened. Those are usually few and far between, but they are heartbreaking not only for them but for me as well. I’m sure that half of the community, those that I do and don’t know, have no idea that I’ve cried right along with them at times.
Just Being There
I love knowing that I’ve helped all of the people who rely on our services to the best of my ability. I love that I have and amazing extended family. Mostly I love that after this long I can still celebrate the good times and mourn during the bad times. I love that I’ve not become so hard-hearted that I still understand that whether it’s a true emergency or not I can help someone.
It may not be a dramatic move every single time, but someone, somewhere will appreciate something I’ve done and I love the moment someone voices that appreciation. It certainly makes it all worth it!
Big Thank You to http://www.facebook.com/DiaryOfAMadDispatcher