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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dispatcher Basics: Having a Bad Day

This will come as no surprise to someone that has been in the 9-1-1 world for longer than a week or two, but there will be Bad Days.  Very Bad Days.  The details of what may be a bad day for you are perhaps different from nearly every other person you work with.  This is perfectly normal.  We have different reactions to different events.  For one, a robbery may involve their favorite restaurant and impact longtime friends.  For someone else, the bad day may involve a call about a sick child, or a fire at their beloved church.  

This was driven home to me early in my career.  I had the challenge/privilege of working with more than a few crusty old tough guys in the FDNY.  They were certainly not the emotional type and were more accustomed to barking rather than speaking.   

One early morning, while working in the Bronx, we had a working fire in a pet store.  Not a particularly dramatic fire, but some of the animals were lost.  The sight and sound of the reaction of one of our "tough old guys" when the Incident Commander reported the fire likely to be arson is one I will never forget.  Fatal Fires involving people had never resulted in so much as a grunt.  But the anger, rage and sadness brought upon by this small fire in a New York City Pet Shop was as intense as it was unexpected.  

The point of this is to say, particularly to our new folks in the center, be prepared.  Have people you can speak to about what happens over the course of your shift, especially if it impacts you in a strong way.  Maybe these are co-workers, friends, or dispatchers from other agencies.  Perhaps it is a family member, partner or spouse, although that may not be the best choice depending on their personal experiences and abilities to handle stressful events.  Having a healthy physical outlet is also helpful, such as working out or hiking or anything that provides an outlet for the stress.  

Whoever or whatever it is, have it in place before you have that really bad day. And after the crazy bad day is over, be ready to take advantage of the system of support you have in place.  Along the way, accept and understand that it is perfectly normal to have a reaction to the things you will face in this amazing career.  Do not listen to those who say "just get over it" or "ignore it"-- that is the most unhealthy thing you can ever do and will lead to all kinds of bad outcomes.  This strategy and many other will help you to help yourself-- and others-- and have a much more successful and healthy life inside and outside of the 9-1-1 center. 

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