Never Have I Called 911

Anna Shmynets


Throughout my life, I’ve worked as an administrative assistant in many fields: insurance, law, IT, sales, transportation, you name it. I always loved my jobs for never repeating the same day twice. I enjoy helping my colleagues, facing challenges, and solving puzzles. I was told IAED is not like any place I worked in before. And they were right. This is not just a company; it is a distinctive place with a remarkable history and a lifesaving approach.

During these two months, I have discovered and learned quantities of new things: the difference between a heart attack and a stroke, the first law of medical empathy, and that the Standard Occupational Classification puts emergency dispatchers in the same category as “Office and Administrative Support Occupations.”

Don’t get me wrong, I think my job is a vital part of the operations of the company I work at.  As the “eyes and ears” of a company, administrative support handles routine chores for a team or even the whole company. However, I was very surprised to know that SOC defines my job to be the same as 911 dispatchers.

Before working at IAED, I did not have a clear image of an EMD’s job. I thought that it was a call center job: You take a call, write down the patient’s address, and send an ambulance for them. Easy. Sadly, I was so far from the true picture.

First off, emergency dispatchers answer more calls than I can imagine. According to National Emergency Number Association (NENA), approximately 240 million calls are made to 911 in our country each year. That means 650,000 calls a day! Can you imagine an office worker taking that many calls? Emergency dispatchers listen to life’s worst occasions all day long, and they must be able to respond to any type of call at any second.

One of the advantages of my work as an admin assistant is a nice, classic schedule—I work from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Not too early or too late, right? Well, many of the EMDs work when we are asleep. They stay on the line for us as long as we need them because they care. Even though the EMD is not physically at the emergency location, they still deal with lots of stress. The truth is half of them deal with PTSD regularly, diagnosed or undiagnosed.

I believe there is no such thing as an unimportant profession in this world, but some of them need to get more recognition because they deserve it. Emergency dispatchers are not the same as office support. Period. We need to reclassify them as a protective service occupation, the same as police officers, paramedics, and firefighters. It will allow people with this profession to get more benefits like early retirement, for example. But what is even more important, it will help to represent their true role and gain more respect.