Tragedy In The 911 Center

I’ve tried to keep my writing life separate from my 911 life as much as possible but after the events in Roseburg, OR yesterday, I wanted to share a little glimpse on what happens on the other side of things.

First off, my heart literally aches for the victims and their families. This is true in every single call I take. A night of taking tough calls can often feel like I’ve spent ten hours being beaten.

After I acknowledge the pain for the victims and families, next I think of the first responders. My job requires me to relay information, track the movements of my units, provide any assistance necessary, and make sure they have everything they need to jump into the lion’s den. The crews I work with know I have one rule they must all abide by. The rule is that everyone goes home alive tonight. Knowing my people are going into any type of active shooter situation is as bad as it gets. I’m not allowed to panic, though. They need me to be the calm voice on the other side of the radio.

Next to imagine the flood of calls coming into the center at the same time officers, firefighters, and paramedics are responding into the danger zone.  Calls from victims who have been shot, scared people hiding in the building, families wanting information, and don’t forget the media. And I mean FLOOD. There is never enough staff to handle the amount of calls coming in and the call taker has mere seconds to determine if the caller has information the responding crews need and get to the next call. Remember, each scream, each scared caller, every person upset because the call taker doesn’t have answers or time for questions not pertinent to the situation is like another blow to their heart.

911 Professionals want nothing more than to help people. You don’t get into the profession for glory, fame or money. And you sure don’t keep doing it for years if you aren’t there for a greater purpose. Often times, they are the forgotten link in the chain of response. I know the ones working in Roseburg yesterday are hurting in ways unimaginable to those who aren’t in the profession. I hope they know, all of us other 911 Professionals are thinking of them.  You are not forgotten.

These are all the things that run through my mind when I turn on the news and see another tragic day unfold somewhere in our great nation. I want nothing more than to reach out to each one of the people hurt and find a way to be there for them. I will not debate about gun laws or another hot button issues because I believe no solution to fighting such evil is ever as simple as passing a single law. There are way too many factors that go into making a person capable of such violence and disregard for human life.

 

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  1. It’s difficult to find words to express the frustration and heartbreak that my family feels for all the people suffering from a tragedy like this one. My personal concern is for all the families of people with mental illness that have nowhere to turn unless they are very rich and, even then, there are few answers. Communities used to care for the mentally ill or detached people in their neighborhoods. It is hard to replace that personal caring with an iPhone or another piece of technology. I can only hope some brilliant techie will come up with a way to force people to help one another in mental health crises. My praise cannot be great enough for the people at the other end of a 911 call. They are the last hope for so many. Our police departments all deserve to be thanked for their efforts in dealing with the mentally ill. Our families need to realize that the police are there for our protection and help. Many thanks to all who work in these programs that reach out when desperation takes over. Thank you all.

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