We grieve with you

Published 10:14 pm Thursday, April 16, 2020

By Melinda Ennis

Assistant Director, Danville 911 Center

April 12-18, 2020 marks National Telecommunications Week for this year. It is the time when we are supposed to celebrate our emergency dispatchers for their hard work and sacrifices. They do deserve our thanks, but I also want to discuss a little-known fact.  They also deserve our respect. 911 dispatchers suffer from PTSD and trauma at an ever-growing rate every year. Every call that we take has the potential to add to that burden we carry.

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We cry, we weep, we grieve, we suffer, and we lose sleep. We have to develop a shield to combat the empathy we have for the tragedies we hear day after day or end up burned out before our time. Not being able to see the scene does not help us keep the trauma from our minds. We are trained from the beginning to get the information from our callers to be able to picture the scene without being there so we can then relay it to our first responders. Those images can be more vivid than the actual scenes. We also do not get closure for most of our calls so we are left without a way to process the tragedies from beginning to end.

With our call volumes increasing and the types of calls becoming more serious, the time to find a solution for our first, first responders is now. Ways we combat PTSD here is with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for free counseling. We have also recently discovered KYPCIS. Kentucky Post Critical Incident Seminar is a class created through the Department of Criminal Justice Training. It was developed by mental health professionals trained to work with police officers and dispatchers. It gives us a platform to share our stories and teaches us how to cope with ongoing problems. Most importantly, we learn we are not alone and should not suffer in silence.

What we would like our citizens and community to know about us is that we are one of you. We are someone’s mom, child, father, son, sister, brother, etc. We know we are talking to you sometimes at your worst or scariest moment of your life. We are there on the line working with you to get your troubles handled. We take abuse, curses, threats, tears, melt downs, and grief-filled rants. Then we pick up the phone and do it all again.  Remember to thank your dispatcher or reach out to your local agency if you know one who did an outstanding job.

Little rays of sunshine go a long way to help in the darkness.