Answering the call: A behind-the-scenes look at a 911 call centre
Published Thursday, April 12, 2018 3:37PM ADT
Last Updated Thursday, April 12, 2018 10:39PM ADT
They’re the calming voice on the other end of the line and now they’re telling their stories.
Dispatchers are the people behind the scenes who answer 911 calls and send first responders to crisis calls. Emergency crews refer to dispatchers as the true first responders.
Last year, dispatchers at the Nova Scotia RCMP Operational Communication Centre in Truro, N.S., answered almost 250,000 calls. More than 93,000 of the calls were 911 emergencies.
Dispatcher Jennifer McCallum says it’s a stressful job, but it’s also rewarding.
She has been answering calls from people experiencing the worst moments of their lives for 20 years, but says some calls have left a lasting impact on her.
"The toughest call I’ve had in my career was last summer… there was a farm accident that involved a small child and as soon as I answered that call I heard the distress and the callers voice I knew no matter how many people I sent her, the resources, it might not be enough.”
Dispatchers have access to regular debriefs and counselling support to help them through difficult calls. While many of the calls are serious in nature, McCallum says some calls offer relief from daily stress.
“Then we get the flipside where there's calls like once a woman was being chased in her vehicle by a group of turkeys down a major road… I guess they can get territorial.”
McCallum jokes that operators could write a book about what they've seen and heard, but she says they often wonder how stories turn out.
“It’s kind of an open book… you just wonder how the chapter finished.”
Inspector Bill Long of the Nova Scotia RCMP says dispatchers are the unsung heroes behind the scenes of emergencies. Long says dispatchers make the job easier for first responders.
‘We rely on the dispatchers here to get us the key information we need to respond to keep the police officers and the general public safe,” Long says.
McCallum says above all else, their core dispatchers are people who care for the wellbeing of others.
“We try to do our job to the best of our ability every day with compassion and strength and itis human nature to want to reach out and touch somebody if they’re having a bad day and we can’t do that physically, but if it comes through our voices and someone saysthank you in the end then it’s made your shift.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Marie Adsett.