Emergency dispatchers experience stressful, rewarding work

JEROME. Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) Dispatch centers across the country are having a hard time keeping people in the job. The job poses many challenges, but can also be very rewarding.

Working at a dispatch center like SIRCOMM is stressful and rewarding. (Source: KMVT)

Southern Idaho Regional Communications Center is a dispatch center located in Jerome that serves four counties in the Magic Valley. The center operates 24/7.

"You’re dealing with everybody’s calls, considering they’re calling usually on their worst day," said SIRCOMM supervisor Tamra Mulliner. "It’s not like they’re calling to say, 'Hi, how was your day?' They’re calling because something is completely wrong in their world, and we are the first people they call to try to fix that. It's stressful."

The dispatcher has to take in the information, remain calm, and then look at the map and decide which first responder to call to go help.

"The mapping, the call types, how to talk to people, how to multitask — I think that’s one thing that people don’t realize when they start in dispatch. That’s why we have people come in and sit with us for a few hours to get an idea. It’s not what you see on TV," Mulliner said.

There are only three people working at SIRCOMM per shift. and SIRCOMM Director Rebecca Simpson said that the job can be incredibly rewarding.

"The dispatchers are talking to people a lot of times on their absolute worst day, and that can be really difficult," Simpson said. "It’s also really rewarding and knowing that something that you do every single day makes a difference for somebody is one of the best things that you can imagine."

She also says that emergency response begins with the people behind the desk at those dispatch centers, and she hopes people remember that.

"People think of the officers and the firefighters, the paramedics, and the EMTs as first responders, but the dispatchers are in there, too. Those people behind the phone calls are really such a key part in the emergency response team," Simpson said.

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