Weight of the Call: The Dispatchers

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – If one is lucky enough, maybe they will never have to dial those three numbers etched in our brains, 9-1-1.

When we think of first responders, we often think of police and fire. One group we often overlook are emergency dispatchers. They are the ones who take the initial calls and get us the help we need.

“We hear lots of things. Some good but most of them are bad,” said Dispatcher Ashton Olsen with the Davis County Sheriff’s Office. “There call comes into us. We send the first responders, and they kind of forget about us.”

Dispatchers are the voice of calm and reason during a tense situation, and many times what they say during that 9-1-1 call could mean the difference between life and death. 

RELATED: Weight of the Call: First Responders in Crisis

“I’m trying to make sure my responders are safe. I’m trying to listen to the other dispatchers in the room. There are a lot of things going on and that can really, the stress of that can weigh down on a person,” Olsen said.

He hasn’t been a Davis County dispatcher for too long, but the calls that deal with suicide are especially tough to bear.

“There have been some calls that have affected me,” he told ABC4 News Jason Nguyen. “[And] I never figured out how the patient was.”

Davis County Sheriff Kelly Sparks says not knowing the end result of an emergency situation can fill a dispatcher’s mind with negative thoughts and scenarios. 

“They are feeling all of that emotion over the phone, but many times what happens with our dispatchers is they never get the closure,” said Sheriff Sparks. 

Instead, many dispatchers simply move on to the next caller without ever dealing with the emotional trauma inflicted by the prior call.

ABC4 News looked into suicide data for dispatchers and there is not much out there, but we did find there are groups looking to compile that information because of the weight of the calls and the effects it has on dispatchers. 

If you or someone you know is contemplating immediate suicide please call 911.

OTHER RESOURCES:

*Editor’s note: In the video for this story, the number for the International Association of Firefighters was read incorrectly. The correct number is listed on the full-screen graphic and along with the other resources posted above.

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