Last year, I helped save the lives of thousands of people. This year, I will do the same.
I am a 911 dispatcher for the Phoenix Fire Department Regional Dispatch Center. We provide fire and emergency medical dispatching services for approximately 23 jurisdictions in the metro Phoenix area. This covers over 1,900 square miles and encompasses the homes and businesses of about 4 million people. Last year alone, our call center answered about 600,000 calls for service. My share of those calls was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000.
The average emergency call for a medical response lasts about four minutes. Within that four minute window, I have been witness to lots and lots of small miracles. I have helped coach several moms through the birth of their children. I have saved multiple lives with the initiation of timely CPR. I am the reassuring voice at the other end of your phone line, telling you that help is on the way and that everything is going to be all right.
Unfortunately, sometimes things aren’t all right. The hardest calls I handle are circumstances in which there is no good action to take. But, when it’s my turn in the front of the answering queue and the little beep in my headset goes off, I keep an unspoken promise to every caller. I promise to give you as much help and support as I can on what might possibly be the worst day of your life.
The Phoenix Fire Department has a long history of providing the highest level of life safety and property preservation to the citizens we serve. They have provided a number of tools in order to enable me, as a dispatcher, to provide the best service possible. We use a Computer Aided Dispatch system to access a GPS signal from every piece of emergency equipment within the department along with a highly structured communication protocol to ensure that you get the right person with the right gear in the most timely fashion. It’s a complicated process, but it’s one at which I excel.
Phoenix Fire Department’s Regional Dispatch Center is considered a “secondary answering point” or “secondary PSAP” in the 911 System. This means that when an individual dials 911 to report an emergency the call will be answered by the local law enforcement agency first. This agency is known as the “primary answering point.” The local law enforcement agency determines if the emergency requires fire and/or medical services and if so transfers the call. This all transpires within seconds. When the 911 phone rings in the dispatch center, we will answer and confirm the location of the emergency, the phone number, and determine what the emergency is before sending the incident off via the CAD system. We will dispatch the call and be in constant communication with the responding units from the time that they acknowledge the receipt of the incident, all the way through to it’s hopefully positive conclusion.
Four minutes at a time. One call, one situation at a time, I get to help people. Sometimes, it’s by laughing with you when you accidentally burn your popcorn in the microwave. Other times, it is by calmly issuing life changing instructions to those in emergency situations. Those that are in my line of work understand the hard truth that we get at most 4 minutes to make an impact on someone’s life. We usually operate with very little closure or feedback.
It is a job which I do well, and a job which I take a tremendous amount of pride in doing.