Monday, 20 August 2012

A Day in the Life of a Rookie Dispatcher


So late, so quiet.  The 24-hour clock reads 0317.  Three stamping time clocks 
acknowledge each minute out of unison.  Otherwise, silence.  Suddenly the 
alarm cuts and jump - starts my heart.  I grab the line.

“Fire Department Emergency.”  So firm, so sure, yet my insides turn.

This new world I have so recklessly taken on overwhelms me with its 
seriousness.  With each ring, I feel responsible for someone’s life.  I fumble the 
hot potato from hand to hand until I am able to pass it onto firefighters 
dragged from their dreams to those in need.

The intensity of the frightened woman’s voice shakes me to my core. 

 “Help me, please!  Oh God! Oh God!”
“Do you have a fire?”  I struggle to suppress my fear.
“Yes, yes.  Oh God please help!” she screams over me.
“What’s your address?”

Click - I have lost her.  My pulse races.  It’s late.  Everyone must be sleeping - 
children perhaps.  My partner grabs the printout.  We got an address!

I send out the alarm: 

“Pump 1, Tower 1, Pump 10, Rescue 6, 5-8, residential structure fire.”   
My throat tightens.  I gasp for much needed air and continue.  

“8200 128 Street.”  I provide tac assignments, grid numbers, hydrant 
locations to the sleepy-eyed firefighters.  I pass the hot potato.  Now I sit and 
wait, count and hope. Each second is an hour.   

“Pump 1, on scene.” The radio spits at me.  Thank God they’ve arrived.

“Two storey house, fully involved.  Tower 1 start search and rescue.  Pump 
10, catch that hydrant.”   

Time passes and I hear nothing.  Then, 

“Dispatch, Pump 1.  We report three rescued victims.  Smoke inhalation.   
Are ambulances responding?”

Fifteen minutes later, the fire is knocked down.  My heartbeat slows.  
I unclench my fists.  We didn’t lose anyone.

I’ve been part of this scary world for only three short weeks.  My first fire
is now behind me.  They say it gets easier, but right now that’s hard 
to believe.   Feeling so alone and afraid in this new world. 
I remind myself it’s all for the good.

I walk the room, then return to my console to wait for the next one.  
My partner,  who’s had 15 years of this, tosses her pen forward and 
falls back  into her chair.  She stares vacantly at me for a moment.   

“I thought we were going to lose someone.” She mutters. 

 And I see the relief on her face.

Perhaps it never does get easier.

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