It’s easy to poke and prod at the things we need to improve in our comm centers. It’s a legit exercise, this poking and prodding, but an important fact gets lost when we focus solely on what needs to be fixed:
Our comm centers are filled with absolute badasses doing sheer badassery.
Yes, badasses doing badassery.
Sometimes you just need to cut directly to the chase.
Frankly, I can’t think of a better or more appropriate way to truly express the incredible work being done by the elite performers in 9-1-1.
Here is an unassailable fact: In the face of ever-increasing call loads, short staffing, and the rigors ofperfectionistic expectations, 9-1-1 professionals are performing at extraordinarily high levels, exceedingexpectations and doing so with aplomb. Want proof? If you aren’t familiar with what goes on in your local 9-1-1 center, go sit for an observation with the dispatchers, and get ready to experience the following:
- Stunned disbelief at the nuclear multitasking you’ll see.
- Awe at their ability to stay cool under extraordinary pressure.
- Breathlessness from laughing at their razor-sharp, slightly warped humor.
- Respect for their drive to solve problems and get help where it is needed, no matter the circumstance.
- Astonishment at these badasses and their complete, unadulterated badassery
To see a dispatcher set up a perimeter on the radio while answering multiple phone calls, laughing at a coworker’s story between tasks, while making several more phone calls, while running people and plates for warrants and stolen info, while assisting a coworker without being asked, while skimming a book and handling the continual radio traffic the entire time AND DOING ALL OF IT LIKE IT ISN’T A BIG DEAL AT ALL, JUST ANOTHER DAY AT THE OFFICE . . .
is utter badassery. Being done by badasses.
If you happen to work in a comm center, take a second to look back at day one on the job. Remember how astonished you were at these badasses all around you, doing their badassery? Remember that feeling that there was no earthly way you could ever, ever do what you were seeing done around you? Remember the training, all the times along the way you went home certain that you weren’t going to be able to do it, that anyone associated with your effort was in danger because you weren’t superhuman and how could any normal person ever be expected to do this ridiculously difficult job with even rudimentary ability? Remember all that?
Then, without even noticing, over the course of time you became just like the people that generated such awe when you first saw them do the incredible work they were doing.
You became a badass. You started doing badassery.
Make no mistake about the importance of the work and what we’re asking of the people doing it.
Ask any first responder who works in public safety how important their dispatchers are. Ask them what a great dispatcher means for the job that they do. Ask them how they feel when they are in the middle of a dangerous situation, but they know their dispatcher has their back.
Ask any person who has called 9-1-1 and received compassionate service and aid, from CPR to birthing instructions to just being there with them in the worst moment of their lives, waiting for help to arrive.
Ask any person who tried to work in a 9-1-1 center but couldn’t ultimately do it because it’s insanely difficult work that only a select few can do.
Yes, there are issues to solve and, because of its critical nature, 9-1-1 does lend itself to constant critique. How do we improve hiring and retention? How do we better impact our work culture? How do we continually improve the technology? How do we do even more for our citizens and field units? All are legitimate avenues of inquiry.
But it is VITAL, amidst this analysis and criticism, to occasionally take time to justly see the things that are already astounding in our comm centers – chief among them, the incredible, deeply dedicated people doing nearly impossible work at ridiculously high levels: the dispatchers, the call takers, the trainers, the supervisors, the managers & directors and all the others who make 9-1-1 work:
The badasses. Doing badassery.
About Kris Inman:
Kris Inman is the Director of Program Development for The Healthy Dispatcher. A 29-year veteran of 9-1-1, Kris retired in July 2023 as Director of Springfield Greene County 9-1-1 in Springfield, MO. An awarded speaker and instructor, Kris has delivered standout educational sessions, keynotes, motivational talks and yoga instruction to dispatchers across the country. He is also a long-time college adjunct instructor, teaching courses in communication and public safety leadership. Kris holds a Master of Arts in Communication and a Bachelor of Science in Electronic Media from Missouri State University. He is also a registered yoga instructor.