A car crash, a choking baby, a fire. You dial those three precious numbers, and seconds later, a voice on the other end is already sending help and telling you how to keep everyone safe until police or firefighters arrive. Who are these first responders?
Meet the Mountain View Police and Fire Departments' dispatchers.
Since 1964, these men and women have dedicated their lives to serve people who, more often than not, they will never meet. But in seconds, these dispatchers are the lifelines that so many need in times of questions, concerns or crises.
“Helping people is all I have ever wanted to do. Every day, we pick up the phone and triage calls in order to help someone,”—Dispatcher Jaymie Caoili.
In 2015 alone, The Mountain View Emergency Communications Center handled 4,000 medical-related calls per year. In total, they handle roughly 20,000 dispatched calls a year and then an additional 20,000 officer-initiated calls. There is never a dull moment in dispatch.
Answering a 911 call is only the start of a dispatcher’s job. They have to become experts as they try to ascertain the emergency situation on the other end of the phone, often speaking with people who are in trouble or who are in emotional distress.
Becoming a dispatcher requires intense, thorough training, as they work with advanced databases and computer software to best meet our community’s needs. Not only do they need to become certified, they have to train for several months before they can handle calls on their own.
Our communications center is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including computer-aided dispatching, which expedites the deployment of emergency personnel to a scene and a computer terminal in patrol vehicles allows dispatchers to send extensive notes directly to officers at a scene. Intricate computer-generated maps give dispatchers a detailed view of the city from several perspectives, allowing them to give quick and detailed alternate routes to scenes if it would make the journey faster. The maps also allow them to find fire hydrants and to see blueprints of a large number of buildings in the city.
Dispatchers also work long hours – many work 12-hour shifts – and they are at the ready 24/7 to provide a vital service to both residents and to officers, firefighters, Municipal Operations, and the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.
Dispatchers handle emergencies blind, meaning they do not get to look at a situation to try and determine the best course of action. Instead, they must go through a series of questions, getting as much detail as possible, to try and help. Sometimes, calls are easy to handle. Other times, dispatchers face callers who yell, cry, scream or who hardly speak at all.
But no matter what happens on the call, dispatchers always have one goal in mind: your safety. They know that when they talk to those who call 911, it could be the worst day of that caller’s life.
“We’re the vital link to emergency services for people facing life or death emergencies. Dispatchers handle everything from barking dogs to medical emergencies, from fires to assaults.”
“But we became dispatchers because we wanted to help. We truly care about the wellbeing of our community.” – Dispatch Supervisor Allison Taylor.
To learn more about our dispatch center, or to learn how you can join our dispatch team, visit joinmvpd.com.