In Honor of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) and its affiliate, CHP-Public Safety Dispatchers Association (CHP-PSDA) are featuring members and saying thank you to ALL public safety dispatchers and communications operators.
Here are some thoughts from Public Safety Dispatcher Sean Lampton, a union site representative at CHP Los Angeles Communications Center. Thank you, Sean!
What is one of your most memorable 911 calls?
One of the most memorable 911 calls I have ever had would definitely have to be the time a female called in and advised that she was being chased by a pack of coyotes while walking with her dog through Griffith Park. The reason why this call stuck out so much for me was more of her reaction every time that she was being transferred to a different operator. I accidentally transferred her to LAPD when I should have transferred her to Parks and Recs. When transferring I told the dispatcher that she was being chased by a pack of wolves. She corrected me and calmly said, “Pack of Coyotes, not a pack of wolves.” I wanted to listen to the rest of the call because I could hear them running after her and the coyotes were all in a frenzy. LAPD obtained some information from her and they said that they needed to transfer her to Parks and Recs. They did, and in the process the LAPD dispatcher told the Parks and Recs Dispatcher that the caller was being chased by a pack of wolves. Again, the caller said, “Coyotes. Pack of Coyotes. Not wolves.” The dispatcher for Parks and Recs was trying to get an officer out to rescue the caller and while on the phone he shouted to the other dispatcher in the room that they need to get out there for a woman that is being chased by a pack of wolves. The caller was so frustrated at this point that she yelled, “COYOTES!!!! THERE ARE NO WOLVES IN GRIFFITH PARK!!!” I hung up and could not stop laughing at her reaction and frustration with every one of us saying that it was a pack of wolves and not coyotes every time she was transferred. I later called back Parks and Recs and learned that they located the caller and that she was safe and taken back to her vehicle in Griffith Park.
What is one of the most memorable calls on the radio?
One of the most memorable calls on the radio that I had, or time on the radio I should say, would have to be the time I had 3 emergencies working at one time. I was working the South Los Angeles Radio (white frequency) and had units in pursuit of a stolen vehicle that was a lojack hit, another officer in pursuit of a vehicle that was refusing to pull over and a woman that had escaped from a mental facility and was now naked trying to jump off a freeway overpass. All 3 situations ended with a code 4 and all parties were apprehended and taken into custody.
Do you have a quirky sense of humor as a result of your experiences and how you deal with them?
I would definitely say after working this job for almost 12 years you develop some thick skin and acquire a different sense of humor. I think you have to. If you don’t then you internalize so much and that only leads to bigger problems and issues. Not to say that everything is easily forgotten and moved on from. There are calls and situations that I can recall that I have never really gotten over but have moved on from. I take those experiences and apply them to new and familiar encounters when dealing with 911 calls and dispatching.
What is an accomplishment you are most proud of as it relates to your career?
I would say that something I am very proud of is those that I have trained to become a 911 CHP Dispatcher. I have taken my experience and taught my rights and lessons to a new generation of dispatchers. I have become very close with those that I have trained. It is always my goal to have my trainees feel comfortable to still come back to me even when training is over, to ask questions or for help should they ever need it.
How do you relieve stress?
Relieving stress is probably one of the things that I always encourage people in this job to focus on. It is so easy to get caught up in the calls that we receive and to internalize them which can constantly weigh on you. To alleviate that, I surround myself with positive things and people. I am a firm believer that you are a product of your environment and that the energy you surround yourself with is what you will put out to the World. I encourage open dialogue with all of my friends, family, and co-workers and feel comfortable enough to talk to them about anything that is weighing one me. I really do believe that this helps immensely when seeking closure to a situation.
Your thoughts on being formally recognized in California as a First Responder?
I was very happy to learn that Dispatchers and 911 Operators are finally going to be recognized as First Responders. So many recent studies have been put out that 911 Operators and Dispatchers suffer from PTSD more than the average Police Officer. The conclusion that was learned is that 911 Operators and Dispatchers never really have the closure that Officers and Medical staff usually have. We never really know if that child lived that was choking on the 911 call with us, or if that crying parent ever located their missing child, or if that unconscious grandfather ever was revived that was found in their bed, etc. We are the first ones to come into contact with the person calling 911 requesting help. We create the call or log that the officer or medical staff have to respond to. We are invested in the call just as much as the officer or medical staff. I am proud that we now share the same title and role with them. Something that was long overdue.
NATIONAL PUBLIC SAFETY TELECOMMUNICATORS WEEK
APRIL 11-17, 2021