Valerie Crawford: Don’t forget to thank a dispatcher |

Valerie Crawford: Don’t forget to thank a dispatcher

Other Voices
Valerie Crawford

I enjoyed Editor Brian Hamilton’s column, “When the call comes, first responders answer,” on the Oct. 11 opinion page in The Union.

But, as so often happens, nowhere did he credit the dispatchers. Dispatchers are truly the first responders … when the call comes … it’s the dispatcher who listens to the hysterical caller in need, who calms them down to get the correct information.

It’s the dispatcher who puts everything into action and then listens to the next hysterical caller and the next and the next. The dispatcher is integral to every component of every emergency, call after call, making instant evaluations and decisions. They monitor and record every aspect as numerous emergencies play out at the same time. They keep track of who’s going where, which agencies are providing support and where. They are the heartbeat of the entire emergency response.

And, of course, they don’t have the luxury of just handling one thing at a time … because the world seems to crash all at once, on top of everything fire related (including numerous 911 calls at a time). There are unrelated family fights, medical emergencies, vehicle stops, warrant arrests … the dispatcher is the first responder to those, too, while in the midst of all the fire traffic.

Every once in awhile someone does a fluff piece about dispatchers and tries to capture what their job is like, but it’s hardly worth reading. It would be an entirely different article if you actually sat in the dispatch center sometime during a major fire situation … for eight hours.

I’m not taking anything away from the firefighters and other personnel going door to door. I just think the dispatchers at Nevada County Sheriff’s Office should have been given credit as first responders too.

Valerie Crawford is a former dispatcher for Nevada County Sheriff’s Office who lived in Grass Valley for more than 30 years and worked during the 49er Fire. She currently lives in McMinnville, Oregon.

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