(ABC4) – This week pays tribute to a silent but significant job in the life-saving field: emergency dispatchers.
Utah Law enforcement sheds appreciation on all emergency dispatchers out in field every year on the third week of April.
“As you wake up in the morning and prepare yourself for the day, please take the time to remember those that are there and ready when you need them most,” writes Central Utah 911. “Among all the professionals working tirelessly to keep us safe, their voices are often the first you hear when calling for help.”
According to Central Utah 911, emergency dispatchers are heroes that work tirelessly, as many sleep, travel, and go about their day.
“We are grateful for your dedication, hard work, and commitment to our citizens and responders to ensure they are protected and safe each day. Once again, we salute you, for you are our heroes. Thank You!”
As many agencies continue to pay tribute to these unsung heroes of public safety, it is crucial to understand the value each emergency dispatcher holds. In some cases, they are the connection between life and death. They are the messengers and information gatherers that set the foundation for a successful rescue mission.
According to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, there were 630 emergency dispatchers in 2016. By 2026, that number is projected to grow to 770 – which is an increase of 22.2%.
With these underdogs slowly growing, many organizations stop to share gratitude for all dispatchers do. The Sandy Fire Department shares its thoughts:
“We would like to thank all dispatchers today and every day for the service that they provide! They truly are the unseen heroes of Public Safety. This week is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, but we want you to all know that we appreciate you every day!”
Many law enforcement agencies recognize emergency dispatchers as unseen heroes who are always heard while working behind the scenes. They are noted as the calm voice in the dark.
Many could even argue that emergency dispatchers are the backbone of every law enforcement agency, as they again help bridge the gap between a call for help and a rescue team.
Rice says even though they don’t go to the scene of emergencies, she considers dispatchers first responders. “We are the unseen faces on the end of the line. We really are the first true responders. We are the first people they talk to before they get medical approved help.” But she admits at times the calls can be overwhelming.
“I’m pretty emotional. On my drive home, I am able to think about what bothered me during the day. I do shed some tears on my way home. That gets it out of my system.” Rice says the opportunity to be there brings her back, “I love being able to help people.”
As we further commemorate National Public Safety Telecommunications week, here are five facts you may have not known about these unsung heroes.
- They have one of the most stressful jobs in America. According to O*NET, emergency dispatchers score 98.5 out of 100 for stress tolerance on their stress factor scoring system.
- They are constantly listening to life’s worst moments. Though most 911 calls typically involve small incidents like minor cuts and fender benders, other calls can be far more serious. Just this week, a dispatcher handled the call of a scared mother as she was allegedly held hostage by her partner. Through every emotionally jarring phone call, a dispatcher is committed to staying calm and steady.
- They are constantly thinking. When paired with an emergency, dispatchers have to quickly construct a plan of action based on fragmented information they receive from frantic callers on the other end.
- According to the Journal of Emergency Dispatch, being an emergency dispatcher can also have a negative effect on an individual’s mental health. Researchers say most emergency dispatchers end up suffering from PTSD. “Individuals who have been assaulted, in motor vehicular accidents, and in disasters all present the same symptoms as are present in telecommunicators,” informs the journal. “The rate of PTSD across telecommunicators is somewhere between 18 percent and 24 percent, as this percentage of individuals report enough symptoms of PTSD that they would likely receive a diagnosis if they were seen by a psychologist and were formally evaluated.”
- They are always available. When someone dials 911, a dispatcher anticipates staying with the caller until they feel safe and proper authority has reached the scene. Not only do they ensure to stay calm during the most jarring moments, but they ensure to be there for you through thick and thin.
Here’s to celebrating and giving thanks to those who put their lives out for others every day. We at ABC4 give much appreciation to all emergency dispatch workers out there.