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For the “First" First Responders

9-1-1- operators, or “First” First Responders are the first point of contact when calling 9-1-1. They coordinate emergency response and most often give instructions to the panicked voices on the other side of the call.

9-1-1 operators handle various types of situations and play a variety of supporting roles to those in distress. It is a very stressful, often highly emotional job where every second counts; this is what makes a great dispatcher.

As a result, some “First” First Responders develop PTSD symptoms over time. The impact the job has on the mind, body, and soul is monumental and even worse if they do not take care of themselves by seeking help after stressful situations. It is important to equip dispatchers with tools to help deal with the high-stress work environment.

Here are some ways 9-1-1 operators can cope with mental fatigue and stress.

Prepare to talk about stress - There is a stigma attached to talking about things that bother you. It may show weakness and vulnerability, and no one wants to say they are bothered in an attempt to show they are good at their job. But bottling up emotions can be detrimental in the long run. Instilling the idea that you need a partner to talk to - whether that is a co-worker or your partner at home - can be therapeutic and beneficial. More people are growing more open to talking about it and sharing experiences for the sake of mental health, and changing the stigma around it.

Planning for trauma - In addition to the large call volumes and various scenarios 9-1-1 operators deal with, department heads; managers and supervisors should have a plan to help operators in the event of a large, traumatic event.

  • Is there a support system in place?
  • Can dispatchers turn to the leadership team for immediate help and advice?

These are a couple questions to keep in mind to support operators. A developed work culture of togetherness and support leads to a strong team. A team-oriented organization that supports one another is key to everyone’s success.

Being Honest - Lastly, it is important, to be honest with yourself. Are you stressed out at work? It’s okay to be to be stressed. It’s important to recognize it and take the appropriate course of action to deal with the stress. Over time, if not dealt with it will take its toll on your health and everyone around you.  

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