Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Voice of 911

Have you ever wondered who answers 911 calls? Have you ever wondered what it takes to be one of those people? What really goes on, behind the scenes, when you call for help? Who is the person on the other end of the phone?

I am one of those people. I am a Dispatcher. I am one of many telecommunicators dedicated to helping in a time of need. That said, I am not a robot. I am not a saint. I am a human being. I have emotions, good and bad, and I have feelings. I am here to help explain what life is really like in the day of a dispatcher.

About me:

I am a twenty-something year old Telecommunications Deputy living in Illinois. Yes, I said deputy. I am a sworn deputy for my county's Sheriff's Office. I took an oath to serve and protect, I wear a uniform and a badge. I have all of the rights and powers of a deputy on patrol; I am merely confined to a bullet-proof room for eight hours a day. And, sadly, my lieutenant does not believe in arming his dispatchers - although on most days, that's probably a wise move on his part.

I will have been at my Sheriff's Office for two years at the end of this month. It was not a career I grew up dreaming I would end up in. Having graduated from college with a B.A. in a field that has absolutely nothing to do with Law Enforcement, I was thrust into the real world with nothing but my hopes and a flimsy piece of paper to keep me afloat. It took me over a month to find a job after graduation, and most of that time was spent actually testing for the Sheriff's Office. I had to pass several written tests, psychological tests, a polygraph, fingerprint and background checks and finally two oral interviews before I was hired. Two years later, I'm still here. I can honestly say now I love my job. It is utterly frustrating but fulfilling at the same time.

What I do during an eight-hour shift:

In addition to answering 911 calls, I also:
  • answer non-emergency calls
  • enter warrants for arrest (as of the time of this posting, my county has over 4,000 active warrants on file)
  • enter orders of protection (a.k.a. restraining orders)
  • enter missing/runaway subjects (juveniles and adults)
  • enter stolen/missing objects (cars, license plates, weapons, etc)
  • enter Sex Offender and Violent Offender registration forms
  • maintain records on all of the above forms
  • and depending on the day, I dispatch for 23 different police, fire and EMS agencies (9 police and 14 fire/EMS)

Dispatcher roles within our Communications Room:

There are normally five Telecommunicators (TCs) on duty at a time: one sergeant (Sgt.) or Officer-in-Charge (OIC) and four deputies. Each of us has a specific task to do for the day and we rotate our position everyday (except for the Sgt or OIC). The Sgt. is obviously in charge and oversees everything in the room. If something goes wrong, it is their butt on the line. Then there is a call-taker, who's primary job it is to answer the phones and enter calls into the computer for dispatching. The fire/EMS dispatcher does just that - dispatches fire and ambulance crews to various locations. They are also the second call-taker. Then there are two police dispatchers. We have the 9 police agencies broken up over two frequencies. We also have two extra positions available in our room, in which case, we could have three people whose sole job it is to answer the phones.

So, when a person calls 911 and gets snippy because the call-taker keeps them on the phone to get information, please try to remember that chances are the dispatcher has already entered the information into a call and someone else has already dispatched the proper agency to location of the incident. Generally, there are more than one dispatcher in the same room (there are some instances where it is still only one person, but those are usually only in rural/small town dispatch centers).

Any questions, comments, or concerns?
Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at deputy105@yahoo.com

Thanks for reading!


  1. As a former Dispatcher and 10 year veteran, I applaud the difficult gig that is Dispatching. Thanks for keeping those of us on the street safe...

  2. Thank you, Motor Cop! I would do anything for my patrolmen. My father was a cop (now a detective) and I know how difficult it can be on the road. Thank *you* for all that you do. :)

  3. Deputy105 - Welcome to the blogging world! We look forward to reading more of what goes on in your world!

    I must agree with your LT. about the no gun policy for dispatchers.. It would freak me out to the utmost core of my body if some of my co-workers actually were able to bring there guns into the center!! Keep up the posting!

  4. Thanks Dispatcher. :) Yeah.. I don't think weapons of any kind will be issued - he even took our stress balls away because they were getting thrown across the room. Relieved stress, though!

  5. If they take away my knitting needles I have others!!!! and I'm not afraid to use them!!!!! :-)