So for background I work in a large regional 911 center in the midwest. We dispatch for about a dozen agencies, including a large sheriff’s office and about a dozen smaller suburban departments, including several extremely poor and crime ridden areas. Having been on for a couple of years now I’ve been entrusted with training new hires and having potential recruits “shadow” with me to get a taste of what they might be getting into.
One day about a month ago I’m working a relatively quiet suburban radio net when I’m asked if I can have a person who’s in the hiring process sit with me for a bit to see firsthand what she’d be doing if hired. I agree, and shortly later I’m introduced to a fresh-faced young woman who explains she’s the daughter of one of our contact agencies officers and she’d like to get a job by us to get her feet wet in the public safety field.
Very quickly as I go through our typical responsibilities it becomes quite clear that dear old dad hasn’t quite been straightforward with his daughter as to what we do. My department requires us all to be calltaker-dispatchers, in that the whole time we’re working a radio, we’re also expected to be answering phone calls as they come in. That includes everything from basic administrative lines to full blown 911 calls. I explain that we have to balance the phones and the radio, and as an example I decide to take a 911 call while she listens in.
Now, about 95% of 911 calls are fairly routine. Your usual domestic arguments, car crashes, unwanted subjects, and open line hangups. We deal with those all the time, and I’d already explained this to my guest. This call, though, was of course one of the 5%.
“911 where is your emergency?”
“Yeah im at this crackhouse in (ghetto town we handle) and my sisters dead. ”
“Excuse me, you’re where and your sister’s what?”
“Yeah, I’m at (address) and my sister’s here and she’s fucking dead. Someone texted us that she was here and yeah, she’s fucking dead as fuck, all fucked up. Just send someone. ”
I recovered from my momentary shock and went through the motions, making sure they checked the body for signs of life and then foul play, got an ambulance going anyway, and asked questions so the scene was clear for responders on arrival. I disconnected when police arrived. On doing so i turned to my clearly traumatized shadow, eyes nearly as big as dinner plates, and explained while that was awful thankfully they didn’t happen very often.
I offered to take another call with her and show her some of the more routine things we deal with but she excused herself quickly and left. To my knowledge she never followed up on her initial application.
In our line of work sometimes it takes months for people to realize they’re not cut out for what we do. For others it just takes one call.