Dispatch Information and Responder Safety

Responder safety is the number one issue for anyone working in public safety, and it could be safe to say there is no one more aware of this than a dispatcher. Any dispatcher can tell you about the stress of having an officer in trouble, a fire fighter not responding on the fire ground, or an EMS crew calling for help and the compounding feeling of frustration knowing all you can do is wait.

There is also no down playing the role a dispatcher plays in responder safety. You are their life line. It is our responsibility to gather as much pertinent information as possible before our responders arrive on scene. Information may come from accurately interrogating callers, searching in house computer systems, searching state or federal databases, monitoring CCTV cameras, or even from Facebook. Any bit of information we can provide our responders could make the difference if they go home at the end of their shift or not.

There are also situations where we can provide our responders with too much information. Responding to calls for service, especially true emergencies, is a hectic and stressful event. Providing emergency workers with extraneous information can distract them from their response and put them in even more danger. An officer doesn’t want to know that one of the cars involved in the accident just finished getting detailed while he is driving through traffic to the scene.

The basic rule of thumb to keep in mind is simple:

What do you want to know as you walk into this call?

This is important to keep in mind, especially when reviewing what has happened in recently in Cleveland and Leon County. Would you have passed on that a caller said a hand gun was fake if they had no first hand knowledge supporting that claim? Would you have passed on officer safety information for a structure fire? We obviously are bound to follow the rules and regulations of our agencies, but when push comes to shove instinct and common sense should prevail.