#Editorial #OurVoice #SpotlightNews
The stress endured by our emergency responders is wide in scope. It ranges from the apparent urgency a volunteer firefighter shows in responding to a call, to the unseen stress that gnaws at the gut of a 911 call center representative.
It’s common for our newsroom to hear the messages from dispatchers and responders over the scanner. The majority of calls are exchanged with cool, monotone voices. Clear and articulate so vital information can be passed from call center representative to dispatcher and to emergency teams on the field. Sometimes the excitement of the situation can be detected in those voices. It’s in those cases we worry. It’s a voice edging on panic.
The voice we don’t hear on the scanner is the 911 representative. The volley of words between these two people is tense. A person reaching out for help and speaking to a stranger who represents a sliver of hope. That precarious relationship is not lost on those representatives who choose this career path as a profession. Those representatives often times work 12-hour days, all spent answering call after call, each one with a potential nightmare scenario that keeps people up at night.
Dramatic television shows have earned success by capturing such storylines. “ER,” “Law and Order,” just to name a few. Incredible yet plausible plotlines that keep the attention of audiences, most of whom sit on the edge of their seats. Often times it’s the manic rush of a emergency room. Sometimes, we see the panicked response team navigating through irresponsible motor vehicle traffic. These stories, however, are broken by commercial breaks. That doesn’t happen in real life.
What also doesn’t happen too often is the plight of the 911 representative. This veiled person represents the first lifeline to the person in need of help. Through the chaos, he or she is able to obtain information, pass it to responders, all while guiding the caller through the hell on the other end of the line. When going well, as relative as can be, a bond of trust is established. What’s your child’s name? What’s her favorite color? Questions to distract and calm the caller. What is she doing now? Ok, try this. It’s a team most people don’t wish to join. 911 representatives, however, do. Every day. But, unlike the team effort in a football game, the end result is unknown. That bond is severed abruptly as the ball is handed off to emergency responders. Not know what happened leads to a whole different form of stress and anxiety not shared with television audiences.
Many agencies are experiencing a shortage in 911 representatives. Factors include stress, low pay and enormous workloads. Those factors need to be appreciated and accounted for before Albany County suffers through the same kind of challenges slogged through by other states in our country. Too often at times, these representatives live on as unsung heroes to our fabulous emergency response teams. They are the first line, they are the lifeline and they need to be afforded as much attention to their needs. Without them, a vital safety net for our neighborhood is shredded.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.