9-1-1 operators: Life, death, cheese and jalapeños
The men and women who serve as dispatchers in the College Station Police Department’s Emergency Communications Center may work long hours in a dark room surrounded by computer screens, but make no mistake — we lead interesting lives.
As the highly trained professionals who answer 9-1-1 emergency calls around the clock, we are the first first responders for people in emergency situations. Last year, we received more than 30,000 calls from the 9-1-1 system and more than 200,000 non-emergency calls.
Emergency dispatchers are the first to respond to a number of life-threatening incidents and serve as audio witnesses to almost everything you can imagine — and some things you can’t. We can talk you through emergencies and provide treatment instructions before help arrives.
In addition, operators field questions about all types of complaints while coordinating priorities to serve the public in the best and fastest way possible. Working tirelessly behind the scenes, these individuals can make the difference between life and death.
We’ve heard children being born and grown people dying.
We also get calls about when midnight yell practice starts and angry reports from people at drive-thru restaurants who didn’t get the jalapeños they ordered on their burger.
A few years ago, a caller reported that Chick-fil-A has been robbed because the lights were off and the cash drawers were open. I always assumed everyone knew Chick-fil-A was closed on Sundays.
Sometimes, misunderstandings occur. A lady once called from a fast food restaurant to report that her “cheese” had been stolen. We were a bit puzzled, but when she finally mentioned she couldn’t drive home, we realized it was her keys that had been taken.
I spent 23 years in public safety on the south side and suburbs of Chicago, so I know what professionals look like, and College Station’s dispatchers fit the bill. The elevated level of service they provide to our citizens is a distinct source of pride.
In other centers that I managed, no one but telecommunicators and administrative personnel were allowed in the dispatch center — including police officers. While that provided a measure of security, it also caused a disconnect between operators and emergency responders.
In College Station, our personnel deal directly with officers and firefighters, which means a greater sense of accountability should a call go bad. Since we get to know our officers and their idiosyncrasies, seasoned operators know by an officer’s tone of voice if they are sensing or even involved in a dangerous situation.
As a division of a city department, we’re also connected to hundreds of other good folks who work for the City of College Station and make up our extended family. The Emergency Communications Center has been nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies since 2003.
In recognition of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, we honor our Telecommunicators with a special thank you for their ongoing hard work and untiring dedication in their efforts to keep our city, citizens and responders safe.