In honor of all the dispatchers and 911 operators out there, I salute you! Having previously worked as a Police dispatcher, I totally get the nobility and value of that work. You are the lifelines for the public and for responders out in the field. It's a tough, and often under-appreciated job. So THANK YOU! Below is a picture of the award I received from APCO during my time in the radio room (and yes, I had a different last name then - that story is for another blog). I was humbled and honored to be recognized for doing work that meant so much to me. Here are the 3 life-changing lessons I learned as a dispatcher:
1. Never underestimate the value of eating pancakes together after a 12 hour shift. The connection between fellow first responders is deep and lifelong. I am still friends with a few of the police officers I worked with and could call them anytime for any reason knowing they drop everything to help me, listen to me or just make me laugh. There is a sub-culture among first responders that only they understand, and it saves lives (or at least sanity).
2. Those without a dark sense of humor need not apply. See #1 regarding the sub-culture....being able to laugh at things people normally wouldn't laugh at or are very politically incorrect is part of surviving seeing the darkest parts of humanity, violence, injustice and death on a daily basis. This personality characteristic is something I brought to the job, which actually helped me connect with the officers I served, and was deepened by the shared laughter of my co-workers.
3. There is nothing in life more gratifying than having a heart of service. Being a first responder of any type is not for the faint-of-heart. It's HARD and demanding work that drains a person physically, emotionally, mentally and relationally (according to an article on Monster.com, Correctional Officer Supervisors, Dispatchers and Ambulance Drivers are in the top 20 "Occupations with the Highest Divorce Rates"). People don't get into that field for fame and fortune. Yes, some may get into because they love adrenaline or other more personal reasons, but most get into it because they want to serve society and be a helper in the world. Serving humanity in a profound way and fighting for the life of another person (or society) is the ultimate sacrifice, but they do it every time they go on shift. It's a calling, a mission and there is nothing more fulfilling.