What exactly do you do?I am the first answering point for all 911 calls for five counties in Central South Dakota. I dispatch for police, fire, and EMS. I am also a dispatcher for Pierre State Radio, which covers parts of Central South Dakota all the way to the eastern most counties. We dispatch for S.D. Highway Patrol, motor carriers, Game Fish & Parks officers, S.D. Dept. of Transportation, and S.D. Division of Criminal Investigation. I have worked with the city of Pierre for two years now.
What are your responsibilities?I take phone calls from people in emergency situations, quickly obtaining as much information as possible, and dispatching needed resources to those emergency events. To make this happen, dispatchers are simultaneously conveying potentially life-saving information to first responders, while coaching callers through various, often life-threatening, emergency situations.
While this is happening, we’re also looking for additional information about the people involved with the incident – finding out who they are, what their medical or criminal history might be, and relaying that information to the incident responders. I have many resources at my fingertips; one of my favorite aspects of the job is the investigative side.
What is one of the best aspects of your job?Helping people. As simple as that sounds, it is the most rewarding. The simple act of being the hope in someone’s darkest hour keeps me pushing through the difficult days when the world seems more broken than usual. I also enjoy building relationships with the people I dispatch for.
To be honest, I used to be skeptical of law enforcement. Then I found this fulfilling career and met some great men and women who share the same love for their community as I do. While this service means sacrificing family and social life, at the end of the day I know my dedication to this profession means other families get to go home safely.
What is one of the worst aspects of your job?In order for me to do my job, I have to juggle many resources at once. This includes a total of eight computer screens, more than 25 radio channels, a 911 phone system, and so much more. When any one of these resources is not working properly it can cause a lot of upheaval and frustration because it could mean life or death.
Overall my least favorite part of the job is losing innocent lives. Even though I study and train to be as prepared as possible for emergencies, when death arrives it is out of my control. Although those calls stay with me, I am able to take rest in knowing that no matter what the call, I give my fullest to each person I speak to; I serve them to my fullest capability. I place my loved ones in the caller’s shoes. That helps me treat each and every caller with the same compassion and care I would with my own family.
What’s something about your job that people might find surprising?People might be surprised how much I am actually doing when I am on the phone with them. Dispatchers are constantly multitasking. We could be talking on the phone to you while also answering or taking traffic from our officers in the field, or communicating with other agencies. Overall being a Communications Officer is challenging in the best way. It is a career path not many people know or think about, but one that is worth every single effort.