By Jennifer Stewart, Communications Supervisor, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Communications Division, IPSA Board Member and Chair of IPSA’s 911 Telecommunications Committee
Everyday day thousands of people dial 911. They hear a voice come on the line that asks if they need police, fire or medic. The telecommunicator will then ask the most important question while they have you on the phone – what your address is. Depending on what type of emergency response is needed the telecommunicator will ask more clarifying questions and then both parties disconnect.
If most 911 calls were that easy we would be living in a perfect world. However, no 911 call is the same. A 911 operator goes from one emergency call to the next and does not get any closure. Each accident, domestic, suspicious person or a noise complaint calls are all different. And then there’s that one call that occurs sometime during a 911 operator’s career that is never forgotten.
Working in an emergency operations environment
The job of a 911 operator is not easy. People do not call just to say hello, it is because they have an emergency.
- A 911 operator is the person who stays on the phone when someone is contemplating suicide and does their best to gain trust with the person until emergency personnel arrive.
- A 911 operator is the person who homeowners call while they are hiding when someone is breaking into their residence.
- A 911 operator is the person who a child calls because something is wrong with one of their parents and reassures them they have done the right thing by calling 911.
Sometimes a 911 operator is yelled or cussed at because the caller is frustrated by all the questions. While being chastised, we have a duty to remain professional and maintain a calm voice. Being a 911 operator is not a thankless job because even if you helped just one person it is worth it.
Most people can never say they have met a 911 operator so the next time you do meet one tell them thank you. They are often the first voice you hear when you need help.
About the Author
Jennifer Stewart is a 15-year veteran with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Communications Division. She is an IPSA Board Member and the Chair of the IPSA’s 911 Telecommunications Committee.