The worst thing about my job is that people who call me for help don’t trust me. You can tell me anything, and I’ve heard it all. Just shot someone? Call me I can help. Your vibrator got stuck? Call me, I’m a 911 dispatcher. Nothing fazes me, I send anyone and everyone help. And yet frequently the people who call me don’t trust me. Why? I don’t know, their attitude baffles me. Perhaps it is a product of the stress they are under, the fear of seeing someone hurt and feeling unable to help. I don’t know.
Rationally speaking this phenomenon doesn’t make sense. I have taken tens of thousands of 911 calls and I know what I am doing. The caller on the other hand may or may not have dealt with 911 previously and now they are in crisis all they have to do is listen to my voice and allow me to do my job, for which I am extensively trained. And yet they treat me as though I don’t know what I’m doing.
We do ask a lot of questions. Partly that is to help us understand how we need to respond to a call for help. You may think you need an ambulance but I may think you also need a fire engine with specialized rescue equipment. Or perhaps an officer to stand by to manage traffic or for crowd control. I know more than the caller does. Yet the caller treats me as though I don’t know what I’m doing.
“Just send help!” they scream at me. I need to ask questions to make sure officers know the dangers they may be facing responding to a c all for help. I can also get useful information if the case goes to court later. I can radio descriptions to officers or explain motivations or make phone calls to help sort our a complicated situation while the officer investigates the scene. If you give me names of participants I can look them up, give me license plate numbers I can record the information in case a suspect leaves the scene. I can warn paramedics about medications that may have bee taken or I can do something as simple as advise whether or not a dog in the house is friendly.
Talk to your dispatcher. Help is on the way but the people we send to help you rely on us to give them as much information as we can. And we can only tell them what you tell us.