In an emergency before firefighters, law enforcement, or EMS head out to help it’s up to the men and women who work at the 911 center to calm the caller down and get the right amount of first responders to the aid.
911 calls can be anything from someone who needs help after falling to dealing with a suicide or a mass shooting.
The 911 call taker and dispatcher need to get the message across to police and fire even on a day when hundreds are flooding the 911 lines.
“It’s chaotic. You almost lose your focus but you can’t. You notice that the calls are going crazy but it is one call at a time,” said Jacob Saavedra. He has been a 911 call taker for two years.
Call takers and dispatch are working to get as much information as possible from the caller to the first responders on the field.
“We don’t want to send EMS out there blind. EMS and firefighters, they don’t have any weapons,” said Call Taker Supervisor Amanda Dominguez.
Sometimes getting details can be difficult in a high stress situation.
“That’s pretty much how it goes. Are they going to be cooperative or are they just going to be yelling and hysterical and we’re not going to be able to control them and grab there attention to be able to help them,” said Dominguez.
It’s up to the operator to get the caller to take steps that could save a life.
“It’s a roller coaster of emotions,” said Dominguez.
Some calls stay with them forever like when a baby couldn’t breath and Saavedra answered that call.
“The mother was panicking. The father was panicking. And part of me was panicking but I had to reset and focus,” he said.
Training helped him walk the parents through until paramedics arrived.
For Dominguez, it is was when a wife who was calling for help after arriving home.
“She found her husband with a gunshot wound to the head under the Christmas tree,” she said. “She was crying hysterically just asking for help. It even gives me chills to this day.”
They don’t always know if the person survived or the outcome of the situation.
“If I don’t know, I’m okay because I know that I did everything I was able to do at that time,” said Dominguez.
Even during a mass shooting in their hometown.
“It was hard but I had to remember that I choose this profession and that day really solidified why I wanted to work here. It made me really proud to be an employee here,” shared Saavedra.
“The guys out there on the field that you see in the fire trucks or police cars depend on them greatly over the radio to support them,” said Deputy Chief Communications Manager Jonathan Killings.
Killings said one thing he would like people to know is they don’t automatically know where the caller is at and it is important to provide an address or description to where you are if you call 911.