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Together we are stronger

How tragedy affects 911 call takers, dispatchers

13 Apr 2017 7:48 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

By Kassey O’Hara, Troy (Alabama) Police Department

I received the first of a series of calls reporting a serious motor vehicle accident. An elderly lady had a medical issue that caused her to travel over the median of a four lane highway. She struck another vehicle head on. That other vehicle was driven by a young female with her toddler in his car seat in the back. The two females were pronounced dead on arrival.

The child was transported, air lifted to the local hospital. Unfortunately, the little boy passed away mid-flight.

I have taken many 911 calls involving motor vehicle accidents, fatalities, incidents involving children and even calls involving people I knew personally. However, for some reason, this call distressed me in a way that I can’t explain, even now.

The aftermath

After we found out that the little boy had passed, I went to go on a food run. On the way, I completely broke down, as I never had before and haven’t since. I began having trouble sleeping and really considered finding another career.

The reason that I stayed with it is, during my soul searching, I realized that for every person that we are unable to help, there are hundreds that we do. I replayed calls and transmissions, looked at dispatch and response times, and replayed the whole scenario in my mind over and over. After doing so, and speaking to some of the responders who were on the scene, it became obvious that there was nothing that anyone could have done to change the overall result.

I find myself thinking of that day often, especially when dealing with motor vehicle accidents where children are involved. I think of that little boy and use it as my drive to keep going, to continue to do my job to the best of my ability. I like to think that their passing is being honored with every person that I help save.

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