Happy National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, three times fast

 So far April has sucked, and I haven’t felt very funny (as opposed to not being funny and thinking I am). So I’m celebrating National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week the way they used to do summer television: With a re-run.)

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

Well, it seems that way. It turns out National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week predates my full-time employment in the emergency services by ten years, and can we possibly shorten that name down a bit? By the time I finish saying the title, the week is over. I’m going to call it … NPSTW. I know somebody who got their Bachelor Degree at NPSTW, although they’ve since married. 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 on my birthday in 1980. But it wasn’t until December, 1991, that I took an actual paying job in that area, 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, 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.

I’ve been here–let me update–about 32 years, and dispatched for most of those. So long that when I started we had only one computer, to get information such as license plate and driver’s license returns, using DOS.

Get your grandparents to explain DOS to you.

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

I’ve been here so long I could retire. Full retirement pay! Sadly, I haven’t figured out how to make up  for insurance and the difference in income. Also, it would be tough learning to sleep through the night.

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. Spaceship vehicle pursuits are faster, though. The truth is, I’m not sure I could make it through training, if I started today.

Instead of one small computer screen,  I’m looking at seven flat screen monitors, not including the security and weather screens. Our report was written (in pen) on a 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.

I found this waiting for me when I got into work Monday. They get me.
I’m pretty burned out at this point, and some of our calls can get rough. I have all the symptoms of PTSD; some of them include:

Experiencing a life-threatening event, like when the dispatch 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.

I checked off each and every box: avoidance, numbing, flashbacks, being on edge, overeating … HEY! Who the HECK took my meatball sub out of the break room fridge! I’m HUNGRY!

Where was I? Oh, yeah:

Why the heck am I still here?

Here’s the thing. I’ve worked in retail; in factories; as a security guard and jail officer; as a radio DJ; 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.

Wait, am I seriously the only male who works here? Anyway, thank you to the Town of Albion for the thank you.


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2 thoughts on “Happy National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, three times fast”

  1. I’m the same with whatever it is, I do for a living.
    I might give out about it and wonder what I did in a previous life to deserve it but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

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