I recently watched a film about my former career called Dispatch on YouTube. It is short, at less than seven minutes, 28,000 views on YouTube, well done with good production values and an illuminating focus within a single incident of focusing on the unique stress of a 9-1-1 dispatcher in taking a domestic violence call.
I loved being a dispatcher and admired my fellow dispatchers for who they were and what they did. 9-1-1 dispatchers receive little attention for their critical work in public safety. Answer the call, hear a story, and tell the story so that the right people are sent to help to the right place. It’s so distant, just a phone conversation, and yet so intimate amidst a feeling of so wanting to help, really help, and having to just listen, send the police, fire or paramedics and hold your breath a little, hoping for a good outcome. Often, it isn’t a good outcome and we have to live with that and answer the next call.
I admit being peeved at the low number of views for Dispatch on YouTube. A common binding feeling amongst dispatchers is that we are unappreciated and our efforts largely forgotten. So we love each other. We have to. That’s OK. It’s the nature of the job and anytime, anywhere that someone outside of the dispatching profession can be exposed to who we are and what we do and how a caller in need REALLY needs us to be at our best, compassionate and yet purposeful and fast acting, that’s a good thing. And hopefully not soon forgotten.
Curtis Darnell brings his lengthy public safety experience to the Beta 80 International team. He worked for 28 years at Santa Clara County Communications in California before retiring in 2010. He rose through the ranks of being a law, fire and medical dispatcher, eventually becoming the Chief of the agency and overseeing four managers, six supervisors and 73 line dispatchers. He is an active member of NENA, APCO and the NG911 Institute.