There is no doubt that the duties of being
a 911 dispatcher in the United States are demanding and intense. There are over 240 million calls made to 911 each year, and each one of those callers needs the person on the other end of the line to be calm, collected, and efficient.
Dispatchers work long hours and are confronted with erratic and stressed people, who are most likely experiencing one of the toughest days of their lives. We often think about the effect that these situations have on the callers and the others involved in the emergency, but how often do we recognize the heroic dispatchers and how what they hear on the other line may stick with them long after they leave their console?
When we ignore the effects of prolonged stress on the health of our dispatchers, we lose these men and women to what is called “burnout.” Burnout is a response to abnormal and overwhelming working conditions that have physical and emotional effects. Workers that may be experiencing this type of burnout may feel a lack of satisfaction with their jobs, powerless and intense stress that carries over into their personal lives.
While 911 dispatchers often take the job knowing the demands and consequences of working in the field, it is still important to recognize when it might be a little too much at times. If you are feeling these effects or notice that your dispatchers are, here are some strategies that can be done right from your console to relieve the negative effects of a stressful day.
If you are working from your ergonomic sit-to-stand console, then you are already on the right track. Try to spend at least part of your day standing at your desk. This change of position will get your blood flowing and can do wonders for your mental clarity and well being:
- Add some yoga poses into your day, such as wrist and finger stretches, or the standing seal pose.
- If you’ve experienced a stressful call, a quick restorative meditation sequence can be done in a quiet room or in the comfort of your chair and may help you let go of the stresses associated with a call.
- If you can, try simply to take a break and leave your console. Take your mind off of things and take a walk.
- Pull out a journal and jot down all the things you are grateful for, like your family, friends or pets.
Regardless of how you chose to de-stress and repair your state of mind from a long day, it is important to find something. 911 dispatch public safety professionals are the front line when emergencies happen, and it is important to take care of yourself and that means having a comfortable work environment and using some of these strategies, or some of your own, which help to prevent burnout and protect your health.