The Thin Gold Line
Regardless of your emergency—whether it’s a crime in progress, a medical crisis, or a fire threatening your home, the first person who answers your call for help is a dispatcher. Even though dispatchers can't see what’s happening, they serve as the eyes and ears of our first responders—the guiding angels who make sure we arrive at an emergency as quickly as possible.
This week is Dispatcher Appreciation Week and I can’t begin to express the gratitude I have for the work our dispatchers do.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, dispatchers are available to answer frantic 911 calls for help. They provide our law enforcement officers with much needed back-up, and they assure that fire and medical personnel racing to our aid have the resources and information they need.
In addition to some much deserved recognition, our dispatchers would like us to follow a few simple tips to help them help us.
First, make sure you know where you are. If a dispatcher does not know where you are, they cannot get aid to you. If you let your kids stay home alone, be sure they know their address. Not at home? Look for simple clues to help you identify an address–a piece of mail or even the name of the closest street would help.
Second, listen to the dispatcher’s questions. Dispatchers are trained to gather information in the shortest possible time, so they can send the appropriate first responders to the scene. If you don't stop talking, it could delay the process or cause the dispatcher to miss an important piece of information.
Third, answer their questions. Even if you don’t understand why a dispatcher asks you a question, answer it as well as you can. Many times a dispatcher will ask a question, only to have the caller respond with, "That's not important! Just send somebody!" Chances are, help is already on the way and the questions being asked are important; otherwise, dispatchers wouldn't waste time asking them. Well-researched emergency protocols dictate certain actions, including which questions to ask. So please, trust that the dispatchers know what they’re doing and answer their questions.
Fourth, telling dispatchers to hurry up doesn't speed things up. It's completely natural to say things like "Please hurry!" in an emergency, but it's important to remember that dispatchers are doing everything they can. If the dispatcher seems calm, it is because they know staying calm is the quickest way to get things done. When people rush, they often make mistakes.
Fifth, remember that a dispatcher’s tone does not reflect how much they want to help you. Sometimes dispatchers use their mean voices with callers. It's because they have to take control of a situation (especially if someone is panicking). Sometimes people need to be told what to do. If a dispatcher is giving CPR instructions, for example, it is extremely important the caller hears the dispatcher and follows the instructions word for word.
Finally, stay calm. I know this is easier said than done, but dispatchers know the best outcomes for the scariest calls come when callers are able to maintain their composure, answer questions quickly and follow instructions. Emergencies are frightening, but you don’t want to make them worse by responding badly.
I hope you’ll never have to talk with a dispatcher during a crisis, but if you do I want you to be as prepared as possible to help our dispatchers, so they can get you the help you need.
Our dispatchers are true heroes who work tirelessly to ensure our safety. They represent the thin gold line between what could happen (without assistance) and what does happen when first responders arrive on time. On behalf of our entire community, thank you, dispatchers for all you do!
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.