Outcomes: Good and Bad

In February of this year, one of Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Public Safety Dispatchers, Bethann Alexin was recognized by the media for saving the life of a person who had gone into cardiac arrest. Kudos go out to Operator Alexin. It’s a wonderful feeling when a 9-1-1 operator receives feedback from a person who survives due to operator efforts and that of their partners in the field, fire/EMS personnel and law enforcement. In contrast though, it’s a sad day when news is received of a person who has not survived. Seldom though do 9-1-1 operators ever even get to hear the outcome, good or bad. As stated by Bethann Alexin “We don’t know the outcome of these calls until we read about it in the newspaper”.

There are several factors regarding 9-1-1 calls that can create stress for 9-1-1 operators. They include the amount of 9-1-1 calls that are received at a given time that can inundate a dispatch center, dealing with hostile callers and those screaming in distress, among many others.  Not knowing the outcome of a situation may add to the stress of the job for some operators. In the March 2012, Time Magazine article “Study: 911 Dispatchers Experience PTSD Symptoms Too”, not knowing the outcome of a call is noted as significant stressor.  For some of the more severe cases, 9-1-1 operators may have an opportunity to be involved in after action debriefings.  In Charlotte County Public Safety, after action debriefings, commonly referred, to as critical incident stress debriefings are typically conducted by the critical incident stress management team and a health care provider. The attendees are those people who are directly involved in the incident. All debriefings are confidential which allows the attendees to speak more openly about the details of the event and their own personal feelings during the course of the call. Talking about the details of the traumatic call can contribute to improved mental health of the operators and responders, by being able to assign closure.

The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office 9-1-1 Public Safety Dispatch Center received 66,808 9-1-1 calls during the 2013 fiscal year. For a majority of these calls, the operator who took that call and the operator that dispatched it may never know how the call turned out.

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