911 operators are the unsung heroes of the world. With an estimated 650,000 emergency calls made in the U.S. each day, operators help nearly 240 million people each year. If it weren’t for their services, millions of lives would be at risk. It’s a crucial job that requires great attention to detail and the ability to keep cool during the most intense moments in someone’s life. If you thought this position just involved picking up the phone and identifying the caller’s problem, then get prepared to learn some of these secrets 911 operators have revealed. You’re in for a surprise.
The Seven Steps Of A 911 Call
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There is a strict protocol 911 operators must follow when assisting someone on the phone. Upon answering the phone, the operator must go through seven main steps.
These steps include: question the caller regarding the emergency, help the caller to remain calm, record details of the call along with the information provided, and record the resources dispatched. While there are only seven basic steps involved, this is only the beginning of the responsibilities 911 operators have.
Verbal Abuse Is Part Of The Job
When citizens call asking for help, you can expect some of them to be hysterical. Lives could be at risk, so it might be difficult for people to remain calm as the dispatcher attempts to help. But during some calls, operators become subjected to verbal abuse.
“For every moment that I felt I was making a difference… there were ten calls where I was cursed at, called terrible names or turned into an outlet for venting civilians,” one dispatcher told the Washington Post. They’re just trying to help people, but people aren’t always concerned with dispatcher’s feelings during these harrowing moments. Their primary concern is getting help.
Given their huge responsibilities, you’ll be surprised to learn how little 911 operators earn.
The Pay Is Nothing To Write Home About
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What you might not know is how little 911 dispatchers earn in wages. Their job is imperative in the process of helping others, so it’s a bit head-scratching that the average dispatcher makes around $36,000 a year. The top end earners make around $56,000.
911dispatcherEDU.org says that “education and experience both tend to play a large role… with higher salaries and advanced positions going to those professionals with more.” If you plan on making this your career, be sure you get the proper education so you can pull in a bigger paycheck.
The Requirements To Get Hired Are Extensive
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911 dispatchers have to meet lots of requirements before they’re hired. Not only do they need a working knowledge of laws, legal codes, government regulations, and agency rules, but they also have to know the geographical area, including the names of highways and roads.
In some areas, employers require 911 dispatchers to be CPR certified. While having a college degree isn’t necessary, there is still significant on-the-job training requirements all 911 dispatchers need to meet.
These entry requirements are just the beginning…
After You’re In, Prepare For Training
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After you’ve proven yourself worthy to accept the calls with your certified background, there is another hurdle to leap. Almost every job has some type of training, and it just so happens the training for this role is grueling. Many states require 40 hours of initial training.
In addition to the 40 hours, you must also complete continuing education. This includes, but not limited to courses in; Advanced First Aid/CPR/AED, Domestic Violence, Suicide Intervention, and Critical Incident Stress.
Later on, we’ll learn the one thing you should never do during a call to emergency services.
The Verdict Is In… They Don’t Know Your Location!
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It’s a common belief that the dispatchers know your exact whereabouts when you call 911. Let’s end that fallacy right now. Yes, it would be ideal if they knew where you were, but it doesn’t work that way. Which is why they often ask people to provide their location.
Curtis Darnell was an emergency service worker for almost three decades. He confirmed in a Quora forum that dispatchers don’t know where you are. It is best to provide them with the most information you can give.
They’re Human Lie Detectors
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Why would anyone want to lie about an emergency call? You might expect young kids who don’t know any better. But there are others who like to call in and fib. How do operators combat this issue? 911 dispatchers are practically human lie detectors.
Retired dispatcher Cathy Looper revealed that “If you lie to a 911 operator friend and they don’t call you out on it… trust me, they are just being nice to you.” So go ahead and lie if you want — they’ll know.
The Things They Hear Are Sometimes Unbearable
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One can only imagine the types of soul-sucking things dispatchers have heard. Emergency calls can range from death to robberies and everything in between. Operators do their best to provide the needed help before anything tragic happens, but sometimes it doesn’t pan out.
Brooklyn Stabile, a dispatcher, told the Washington Post, “I’ve talked to parents who found their children dead, to kids who watched their parents die. It takes a toll.” Don’t ask anyone who works in this field what’s the worst thing they’ve heard. You probably don’t want to hear it.
How do operators cope with the sometimes tragic calls?
Dealing With The Painful Calls
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After hearing some of the tragic things dispatchers have heard they still have to push on. Their job doesn’t end after helping with one horrific emergency. They may say they’re okay when their manager asks, but that isn’t always the case.
13-year veteran Ricardo Martinez revealed on his podcast TheJabberLog what it’s like after the mayhem. “You’re rocked and everything echoes in your head,” he said. “Sometimes there’s a debriefing after the shift is over, but not necessarily. Some dispatchers seek clinical therapy.”
Next up: one thing you should never do when calling 911.
Never Hang Up Prematurely
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Parents, please let your kids know that crank calls to 911 are not funny and it is a punishable offense. And adults, even if you call by mistake, you must never hang up early. Wait until the dispatcher tells you to do so, according to the national program behind emergency services.
If you end the call prematurely, the dispatcher must investigate, and that takes away from other potential emergencies. The bottom line is to remain on the phone no matter what until they say it’s okay to hang up.