"No matter who we are, from the rich and famous, to the average Joe or Jill, when we need emergency help, we all call 911 and rely on the steady as steel operators and dispatchers to assist us. They protect and save lives wearing a headset." - CSLEA President Alan Barcelona
They don't wear badges, guns, bullet proof vests or duty belts, but you can bet emergency dispatchers and communications operators save lives just as law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics do. They do wear headsets, that put them in touch with some of the most distraught or scared individuals who are in dire need of help.
Public safety dispatchers and operators are the first responders for those involved in car accidents, plane crashes, fires, and physical attacks. Entrapments, rescues, pursuits...they are all in a day in the life of a emergency dispatcher. Public safety dispatchers and operators watch over those who call for help and the officers they dispatch to respond.
"These are very unique individuals who remain calm and focused under pressure, they can't see what is happening, they can only hear," said Alan Barcelona, president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA). "They are quick , intuitive, creative thinkers all in an effort to protect and to save lives.
Emergency dispatchers and call takers have a keen sense of the geographic region they serve. They know communities and neighborhoods, street by street. They know when someone needs to flee or someone needs to stay put. They are the calm in someone's storm.
"There's no question that it's an intense job," said Tina Brazil, president of the CHP-Public Safety Dispatchers Association (CHP-PSDA) and senior vice president of CSLEA. "CHP public safety dispatchers and operators handle more than nine million calls a year, most of them 911 calls for emergency help. They rely on each other for stress relief, because only they know the true pressures of the job, hour by long hour, day by long day. One week a year to recognize the incredible job they do, just isn't enough time to say thank you."