The Thin Gold Line
Between the Thin Red Line, the Thin Blue Line and the Thin White Line lies the Thin Gold Line. This narrowest of lines represents those who are rarely seen but always heard and appreciated. The calm voice in the dark, the heroes behind the scenes, the Golden Link that holds it all together:
By Thonie Hevron
The week of April 10-16, 2016 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Appreciation week, also known as Dispatcher Appreciation Week. Dispatchers answer most of the incoming calls to public safety departments, assess and route the 911 calls, take appropriate action (some centers provide EMD-Emergency Medical Dispatch which means a dispatcher will direct the caller in first aid techniques to mitigate problems until the arrival of fire-fighters/paramedics) and relay important information to officers in the field. There is so much more they do: keep locations of patrol units in their heads as well as updated on the computer, provide confidential information when needed, recall bad guys’ dates of birth, listen for a tone in an officer’s voice to indicate trouble or need or whatever…
Telecommunicators Week began in California in 1981 and quickly grew to national recognition. Just ten years later, Congress designated the second full week of each April as a time to remember the critical role that dispatchers play in keeping us all safe.
Yesterday, the Sonoma County dispatchers celebrated twenty years of April Dispatcher Appreciation get-togethers. The venue was Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park and the event was well attended. My estimate was over one hundred dispatchers, retired and active-duty, as well as managers and department heads.
Here is a mug shot of the usual suspects: Kathleen, Daralyn, Kathrina, and Jan are seated. I’m standing next to Natalie and Carli. Here are the faces of the women who calmed the mother of the dead baby down enough to get an address (not all calls are on landlines), who woke the fire-fighters up for the inferno next door, and the dispatcher who stayed on the phone with a young caller who heard an intruder in her home.
I’ve been through a lot with these women. There’s a bond that transcends distance and time. All but three are retired now. During the luncheon, someone brought up Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Natalie asked the table, “How many of you have trouble sleeping?” To a person, we all raised a hand. It was a little humbling to realize that we all have scars from the job. But we live with them and temper the ghosts with fun memories of camaraderie, blowing off steam, and the knowledge of a job well done. The general public will never see these things and that’s just fine by us. We know we did what we were supposed to do—trained to do.
If you don’t notice when you’re on the phone with us, that’s fine with us.