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#IAM911 movement changing the perspective toward 9-1-1 telecommunicators

Date: 2016-09-06
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Based on a story by Nicole Tschetter  posted at

They are there for fatal accidents, murders, suicides, and many other terrible calls - they are 9-1-1 dispatchers.

"I helped give delivery instructions to a woman that was having a baby,” said Nikole Miller, a Pennington County, South Dakota, Dispatcher. “And, seven weeks later I gave CPR instructions to the same baby because the baby passed away. That one was like it hit home. I'll never forget it.”

Image at right: Found shared on Facebook

It's these kinds of personal stories that really show what it takes to be a dispatcher. "It takes a special type of person to do this,” added Leslie Janzen, a Pennington County Dispatch trainer. “Our hiring process is pretty thorough. One in a hundred people can do this. That's our national average."

Dispatchers aren’t the ones who respond to the crime scenes or the medical emergencies or rescue people from burning buildings. But, as this story from ABC’s KOTA-TV in Rapid City,South Dakota, explained, these telecommunicators who wrangle the 9-1-1 calls are more than just an emergency number to call. "We do so much more than just answer phones,” said Kelly Smith, a Pennington County Dispatch shift supervisor. “We dispatch the officers, we do CPR, we deliver babies. We save lives.”

This passion to save lives is what fueled the movement #IAM911 – a nationwide social media effort, started by Ricardo Martinez, a 9-1-1 supervisor in Michigan. Since the hashtag started dispatchers are coming forward sharing their personal stories, some are lighthearted, while others heart wrenching.

"I'd been here about three or four years and we had a rash of SIDS deaths - in a span of five days I took seven, and that kind of weighs on you," said Smith. “You’ve got to figure out how to deal with it.”

"Right after those calls you have to answer the next call. You don't get to leave and take a break," Smith said. "And those kind of stay with you."

The goal of the #IAM911 movement is to enlightens outsiders about a 9-1-1 dispatcher's job, and ultimately have that job recognized and reclassified above the “clerical” level where it current exists on a national level.

The In The Trenches Podcast Facebook page is collecting and displaying short dispatch stories from working telecommunicators all over who are fighting to show how non-clerical they are. Some may find these posts disturbing but this is as real as it gets.  

See a prior story on this topic at

- People, Places & Things/ (via KOTA-TV, Rapid City, SD, 9/1/16)



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