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For Those Who Wear the Headset: The Thin Gold Line
Author: Ryan Dedmon, M.A.
To the unsung heroes in dispatch communications who answer emergency phone calls… we call you, “The Thin Gold Line”.
You are rarely seen. Your work does not get spotlighted by the media, unless you make a mistake. “Tip-A-Dispatcher”? There is no such community event for you. In fact, your work often goes unnoticed. You work long hours, anywhere from 8-16 hours in a day. Holidays? There is no such thing. You get to celebrate Thanksgiving at work. Mandated overtime and emergency call-outs are common occurrences. You miss your son’s soccer game, or your daughter’s dance recital, because you can’t get it off due to staffing shortages.
You’re underpaid for the work you do because you are not just a dispatcher. You’re expected to solve a lifetime of problems in minutes. You’re a counselor, attorney, priest, financial advisor, investigator, life coach, victim advocate, marriage and family therapist, and parent to every troubled teen in your city. You rarely ever learn the outcome of the calls you handle and you don’t get to meet the people you help.
Many of you silently suffer from the heavy psychological and emotional tolls the job demands from you. You sometimes cry yourself to sleep at night thinking about the voices on the other end of the 911 lines you answer. But you’re afraid to talk to anyone else about it for fear of being judged or labeled because no one could possibly understand.
And yet, you still faithfully report to work. You’ve weighed your options and come to understand the rewards of your career far outweigh the above losses. No one could ever do your job like you and the most advanced piece of technology could never replace you. And thus, you commit yourself to being that voice of comfort and reason for people who call you under the most exigent of circumstances. You answer those 911 calls without hesitation, because seconds save lives and all lives matter to you.
Dispatchers and communication operators at public-safety agencies (police/fire/EMS) across the world are often forgotten because the public eye rarely focuses on the unsung heroes who wear the headset. But today, the Thin Gold Line shines ever so bright and we see the brave men and women who help us when we call in our darkest hours… the men and women who work as emergency dispatchers. Thank you all for your service. Carry on, knowing we all see you and appreciate you.
This blog was originally posted by the author on linked-in in April 2015, and is reprinted here by permission of the author.
Ryan Dedmon, M.A., is the Communications Specialist for the 911 Wellness Foundation. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at the Criminal Justice Training Center at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, CA. He worked various assignments in local law enforcement in Southern California for nearly twelve years, a majority of which were spent in a police dispatch communications center answering 9-1-1 calls. You can learn more by visiting his personal blog Operation 10-8.