In my nearly 30 years in the Santa Rosa County Emergency Communications, I have witnessed tremendous technological advancements in the way we receive, process and dispatch emergency responders to calls.
We have moved into the highly computerized world and here in Santa Rosa County we have led the charge in some of these advancements, implementing cutting-edge technology before many other larger centers within the state. We are proud of our vision for the future to continue providing the fastest and most efficient service to our residents.
With all the technology and the advances we have made, one thing is key to a successful public safety program - the dispatchers you talk to but rarely see. They don't show up to your home or accident site riding on the firetruck or in the ambulance with lights and sirens announcing their arrival, they work behind the scenes.
These are the people who answer the phones and take information from terrified, angry or panicked callers who no longer remembers their addresses or phone numbers. With this sometimes disjointed and partial information, the dispatchers must piece together the events of each call, decide on the appropriate response and paint a picture for the responders. They must also calm the callers and connect with them on a personal level.
You see, they are the first-first responders in the chain of survival. They help you perform CPR or control bleeding before an ambulance arrives, instruct you how to remove yourself from a fire or tell you how to safely approach a scene to help others. They calm a scared child who is lost or calling for the first time about an emergency. They offer a virtual shoulder to cry on for a traumatized caller or loved one who has reached the breaking point after an alarming event.
What I am most proud of is the level of compassion and empathy our dispatchers have for people they do not know. They may never have met you but when they answer your call, you become someone they care about and want to help you. Dispatchers often remind each other to make sure you hear their compassion and desire to help you in whatever situation you may be.
I am not going to tell you that you won't hear a little stress in their voices from time to time because they are human and deal with the callers' emotions as well as their own. However, I can assure you that they care about every caller and pride themselves in providing the very best help you could desire.
I am proud to call myself a 9-1-1 dispatcher, but I am most proud of the men and women who work in our center and sacrifice their weekends, holidays and a good night's sleep to be here for you when you need them the most, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
These are the men and women who have kept me here close to three decades and because of this group of caring individuals, I have never regretted my career choice.