Behind the Phone of a 9-1-1 Dispatcher

In every emergency situation, 9-1-1 dispatchers are a lifeline to safety. These are the people who help when no one else can.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Lubbock had an estimated population of just under 300,000 people in 2015. While many do not consider Lubbock a big city, according to the FBI, it has the second highest violent crime rate in the state.

The Lubbock Police Department is located in downtown Lubbock. The 9-1-1 dispatchers are located inside this building. Credit: InmateAID

The Lubbock Police Department is located in downtown Lubbock. The 9-1-1 dispatchers are located inside this building. Credit: InmateAID

James Quijada, a level two public safety dispatcher, said they are busier than most people might think and Lubbock does have quite a bit of crime. He said calls can be tough to handle if you are not in the right mindset.

“When you get here you have to have a certain mentality of thinking about things,” Quijada said. “You kind of have to turn off your emotions and the way you feel about people and the way you perceive people.”

While it may sound harsh, Quijada said it helps dispatchers make it through their shifts. He said you have to have a work mentality and a home life mentality.

“I don’t want to say doing this job you cant be compassionate,” Quijada said. “But if you were to have feelings about every call you took, it would just destroy you as a person.”

Randi Flood, public safety supervisor, said some people may not realize the situations they have to deal with on a daily basis. She said some people struggle with calls that deal with people dying or bad situations for children.

“It does take a special person, I think, to be able to handle this and come to work everyday and go home and be OK,” Flood said.

For her, Flood said calls involving children are the hardest ones to get through, but each dispatcher may have their own type of situation that sticks with them most. She said they are always hiring because this can be a tough job for people to stick with.

James Quijada has been a longtime member of the 9-1-1 dispatch team and can be seen standing just outside the main area of the dispatch center. Credit: James Quijada

James Quijada has been a longtime member of the 9-1-1 dispatch team. Here, he can be seen standing just outside the main area of the dispatch center. Credit: James Quijada

Quijada said people are often distressed when they call 9-1-1 and that can make the dispatcher’s job more difficult, sometimes making it harder to get vital information from the caller.

He said, sometimes, people just repeat that they need help without giving additional information about the situation.

“A lot of times they’ll call and just say, ‘Just get help out here, just get help out here,” Quijada said. “That doesn’t help us whatsoever because if we get out there and we don’t have any information, we are going to treat everyone as if they are in danger.”

Quijada said just because you are calling does not automatically mean you are a victim in the situation. He said the most important thing is to try and remain calm while also relaying as much information as you can.

John Gomez, a former law enforcement officer, said dispatchers are vital to providing crucial details for officers responding to a situation. He said they all rely heavily on them for every call.

“Every police officer just depends so much on the dispatcher,” Gomez said. “They get so much information for us from the people that call and it is so important because the more information they get the better prepared you are going to the scene, going to the call, or whatever that you are being dispatched to.”

He said he thinks dispatchers are people every police officer is grateful for and he praised their professionalism and competency. He said it does not matter what situation, whether it be a burglary in progress or a domestic altercation, an informed officer is vital to staying safe.

While he said the public most often connects with the officers out on patrol or the first responders on scene, he still believes the pubic also recognizes how important the 9-1-1 dispatchers job can be.

While the struggles of the job are daily, Quijada said it starts with people who call on them in emergencies. He said you can always help dispatchers do their job well by being calm and helping facilitate information to them.

“The best thing is just to stay as calm as you can and we understand some situations are not going to be ideal,” Quijada said. “If you’re seeing your child choke or you’re getting beat up or something like that, it’s not going to be a calm situation. Just as calmly as you can, answer our questions.”

 

About Joseph Marcades

Joseph is the Graduate Managing Director for The Hub@TTU. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas Tech University and is currently pursuing his master's in mass communication. Has been with The Hub@TTU for one year. He loves his wife, football, golf, movies, Texas, and telling good stories.

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