Preparedness & Recovery

Dispatchers — the Calm Among the Chaos

Dispatchers manage to stay calm even when a caller is in the midst of chaos and under stress because 'the emergency’s not here.'

by Tara O'Neill, Connecticut Post, Bridgeport, Conn. / April 16, 2018

(TNS) — In any given eight-hour shift, John Butz sits in front of eight monitors in the Trumbull Police Department, fielding 911 calls.

Amid the chaos that any night can bring, Butz will handle calls running the gamut from a report that someone ran over a mailbox to a 3-year-old in cardiac arrest.

“We’re the first link of communications,” during emergency situations, Butz said of dispatchers.

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week is the second week in April, celebrated annually since its inception in 1981 with praise from local police and fire departments who acknowledge the part that 911 dispatchers play in public safety.

And John Butz is one of the people who are a center of calm amid the information whirpool.

Butz, who was born and raised in Trumbull but currently lives in Stratford, has been a dispatcher for Trumbull police for 16 years. He said he started out part-time before transitioning into a full-time position.

After his time at the Nichols Volunteer Fire Department in town, Butz decided he wanted to be a dispatcher. At the fire department, Butz worked his way from junior firefighter to chief, a position he held for seven and a half years.

“I did the fire part, but I wanted to get into the dispatch part,” Butz said. “This is just another part of emergency services, another aspect of the job.”

The stations Butz and other dispatchers in Trumbull work at were fully revamped in December 2016. Before then, the department had two stations for dispatchers. Now, it has four.

Each station has a phone hooked up to the Trumbull 911 line, two keyboards and eight monitors. Every monitor provides different services, including the department’s emergency call system, radio transmissions and a system to run warrant checks.

When it comes to being a dispatcher, Butz said, it’s essential to be prepared for anything.

“You never know what’s coming,” he said. “You never know when it’s going to be a busy day or a slow day.”

Dispatchers manage to stay calm even when a caller is in the midst of chaos and under stress because “the emergency’s not here,” Butz said.

And he had some words of advice for people when it comes to calling 911: “Listen to us and answer our questions.”

The department uses CAD — computer aided dispatch — to submit all calls it receives to the human in the works. Butz said that system requires them to fill in answers to questions, including street names and specific details.

“For example, if there’s a suspicious person — do they have a weapon? Do you know what kind of weapon? Those are questions we need to know before we dispatch the call,” he said.

Once the dispatcher has all the answers to the questions, Butz said, they can figure out the right services to send.

“Things can be at zero miles per hour and five minutes from now, it’s at 100 miles per hour,” Butz said. “Sometimes, you can go a while without a call and other times you can have 20 calls in 10 minutes.”

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©2018 the Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Conn.)

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