Say happy National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week three times fast | HumorOutcasts

Say happy National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week three times fast

April 16, 2019

I’ve been taking 911 calls for so long that they were originally 91 calls.

Well, it seems that way, anyway. It turns out National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week predates my employment in the emergency services by ten years, and can we possibly shorten that name down a bit? By the time I finish saying National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, the week is over. I’m going to call it … NPSTW. I know somebody who got their Masters degree at NPSTW. Go Bulldogs!

Anyway, I started with the Noble County EMS as a seventeen year old trainee in late 1979, and joined our volunteer fire department in 1980; but it wasn’t until December, 1991, that I took an actual paying job in the area of emergency services, as a jail officer with the Noble County Sheriff Department.

Within a few years I got tired of getting sick all the time. Seriously, those inmates breathed so many germs on me while getting booked in that I thought I was in a sequel to The Andromeda Strain. So I went into dispatch, trading physical ailments for mental ones.

Unknown to me, way back in 1981 Patricia Anderson, of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office in California, came up with this idea to give tribute to, um, NPST, or as I’m going to call them, dispatchers. Yes, I know “dispatchers” doesn’t tell the whole story, but my typing fingers are tired.

Oh, who am I kidding? All of me is tired.

Isn’t it something. I’ve been here for almost twenty-eight years, and dispatching for about twenty-five of those. I’ve been here so long that when I started we had one computer, used only to get information such as license plate and driver’s license returns, and it used DOS.

Get your grandparents to explain DOS to you.

My wife points out that taking notes from 911 calls was difficult back then, because we had to received 911 calls by smoke signal while carving words onto stone tablets. I’m fairly sure she was kidding.

I’ve been here so long I could take full retirement at the end of this year. Full retirement pay! Sadly, I haven’t figured out how to make up the difference in income. The good news is we don’t make all that much to begin with, so the loss of income wouldn’t be so much of a shock … but it would be tough learning to sleep through the night.

While I joke about it, mostly to keep from crying, things really were easier back then when it comes to learning the job. Our computer systems do make it easier to help people these days, but astronauts don’t train as much as our rookies do. Their vehicle pursuits are faster, though. The point is, I’m not sure I could make it through training, if I started today.

We had one small computer screen for running licenses when I started. Now I’m looking at seven screens, not including the security and weather monitors. Our report was written (in pen) on a single piece of paper about half the size of a standard sheet. Today we have a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD), radio screen, phone screen, mapping screen, recorder screen, 911 texting screen, and a screen to keep track of everyone’s duty status. We also have a screen to keep track of screens. Those are just the ones we use regularly.

So yeah, it can be a tough job. Me, I’m pretty burned out at this point, and have all the symptoms of PTSD. Some of them include:

Experiencing a life-threatening event, such as when the pop machine ran out of Mountain Dew;

Flashbacks and nightmares, such as reliving the night we ran out of Mountain Dew;

Avoidance, such as staying away from places that don’t have … well, you know.

Depression or irritability, which I just now realized might be related to consuming too much caffeine;

Chronic pain … wow, that one hit me like a pulled back muscle.

You know, looking down that list, you have to wonder as I check off each and every box, such as avoidance, numbing, flashbacks, being on edge, overeating … HEY! Who the heck took my sub out of the break room fridge! I’m HUNGRY!

Where was I? Oh, yeah. You have to wonder:

Why the heck am I still here?

Here’s the thing. I’ve worked in retail; in factories; as a security guard; as a radio DJ; and I once made two bucks an hour growing worms for fishing lure. And for all the emotional turmoil, all the mental stress, all the physical ailments, all the days when I wanted to scream, and so desperately wanted to NOT go back into work the next shift …

Dispatching is still the best full time job I’ve ever had.

Of course, I’m not a full time writer, yet. And for that I’d only have to deal with one computer screen.

Mark R Hunter

Mark R Hunter is the author of three romantic comedies: Radio Red, Storm Chaser, and its sequel, The Notorious Ian Grant, as well as a related story collection, Storm Chaser Shorts. He also wrote a young adult adventure, The No-Campfire Girls, and a humor collection, Slightly Off the Mark. In addition, he collaborated with his wife, Emily, on the history books Images of America: Albion and Noble County, Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century or So With The Albion Fire Department, and Hoosier Hysterical. Mark’s work also appeared in the anthologies My Funny Valentine and Strange Portals: Ink Slingers’ Fantasy/Horror Anthology. For two decades Mark R Hunter has been an emergency dispatcher for the Noble County Sheriff Department. He’s served over 32 years as a volunteer for the Albion Fire Department, holding such positions as safety officer, training officer, secretary, and public information officer. He also has done public relations writing for the Noble County Relay For Life, among other organizations, and served two terms on the Albion Town Council. When asked if he has any free time, he laughs hysterically. Mark lives in Albion, Indiana, with his wife and editor Emily, a cowardly ball python named Lucius, and a loving, scary dog named Beowulf. He has two daughters and twin grandsons, and so naturally is considering writing a children’s book.

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5 Responses to Say happy National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week three times fast

  1. Bill Spencer
    April 21, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    It sounds like when someone calls in an emergency, YOU are the first responder.

    • April 23, 2019 at 1:39 am

      We like to say we’re the FIRST first responder.

    • April 23, 2019 at 1:48 am

      I should add that in most states, dispatchers are still considered “clerical personnel”. There’s a move on to change that, but political wheels grind slowly.

  2. Bill Y "The Legendary Legend" Ledden
    April 21, 2019 at 8:26 am

    If we could just go back to DOS and work methodically towards Windows Vista and skip Windows Vista, we would be using our powers for good.

    • April 23, 2019 at 1:40 am

      Oh, that ship has sailed. And hit an iceberg. And sunk.

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