Reaching You

Heather Darata

Heather Darata

Dear Reader

Working for the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch® (IAED) on the Journal for more than 15 years has given me some real insight into the profession of emergency dispatch. It’s helped me learn about public safety in general, but also more specifically about what you do for the public every day as emergency dispatchers.

Today, I’m reflecting on the comfort I have knowing I can call 911 or, in some cases, the non-emergency number to talk to a caring individual who will get me the help I need for the situation I’m in.

A few weeks ago, I smelled campfire smoke coming through the window around midnight. It’s terribly dry here, and I was on high alert after smelling it. I didn’t see anything outside the window but knowing there is a dry hillside right behind my building, I wondered what could be burning this late at night; there isn’t a suitable place nearby for campfires. I fretted for a few minutes and then called the non-emergency line to ask the fire department to come check it out.

I spoke with the emergency dispatcher who gathered my information. I went to sleep knowing that if there was something to find, it would be found now that I had reported it. I wouldn’t have thought much about this experience except that I smelled campfire smoke the next night around the same time. I again called the non-emergency line even though I didn’t see any flames or smoke because I didn’t want to venture outside to poke around on my own at that time of night. This time, the emergency dispatcher asked if I wanted a follow-up call letting me know what, if anything, was found.

I ended up talking to the firefighters in person after they canvassed the area, and instead of feeling silly or embarrassed when they again came up empty (the same as the night before, I found out), I felt like everyone involved really cared about putting my mind at ease. The emergency dispatcher who took my call cared about me getting in contact with the fire department as much as the responders cared about letting me know they had come out to check up on the smell.

As emergency dispatchers, I’m sure you don’t get a lot of follow-up from callers and often not a lot of thanks for the important role you play and the service you provide to the public. This is why I’m glad I have the opportunity to say thank you. I know you will be there when I need to call—no matter the situation.