During an emergency, first responders like police and firefighters are often praised with their quick thinking and problem solving, which saves many lives. While their respect is highly deserved, there is another set of heroes behind the scenes in public safety.
Emergency operators are often the first voice a person in distress is connected to. They must identify the type of emergency, dispatch responders to the right location and attempt to keep the other person on the line calm.
The job of a dispatcher can be incredibly stressful as they guide people through sometimes life-changing moments and chaotic situations.
During an emergency, it may be difficult to compose yourself while you call for help. Prepare yourself by understanding these etiquette tips when calling 911, from the National Emergency Number Association; they can help you receive immediate help rather than a delayed response.
Stay calm: Answer each question asked by the operator. Even if it doesn’t seem pertinent to the situation, your answers are important to get responders to you quickly;
Know your location: While GPS can give dispatchers an idea of where you are, make sure to disclose your exact location. If the address is unknown, look for street signs, landmarks or well-known buildings in the area;
Be clear and concise: Describe the emergency as clearly as possible. Include the condition of the patient, their age and what happened. This will ensure the operator sends the right type of relief immediately.
You can prepare your home for an emergency by clearly posting your physical address on the front of the building and both sides of your mailbox.
Avoid the bystander effect
If you witness an emergency in a public or crowded place, don’t assume someone else will step in and call officials. The International Academies of Emergency Dispatch describes the bystander effect as the presence of others discouraging an individual from helping in a drastic situation. When you are in the area as disaster strikes, make sure to call 911 and wait with someone in need until help arrives. If you are trained to tend to emergencies, ensure another witness makes the phone call while you assist the patient.
Saying thank you
After a situation is resolved, you can show appreciation to your acting operator by reaching out to their management and discussing their optimal assistance. Make it public by sharing the story on social media and encouraging your peers to increase their trust in the local emergency services.