ON THE BOOK SHELF
By John M. Malecky August, 2017
Tell Me Exactly What Happened
Dispatches From 911
By Caroline Burau
Anywhere books are sold
The book is softcover, measuring 5 ½ inches by 8 ½ inches and has 182 pages within 31 chapters. As you can see, the chapters are fairly short. These are memoirs of the author who worked in two different dispatch jobs.
One was a 911 operator for the White Bear Lake, Minnesota Police Department. The center also covers the township, which combined, has a population of 35,000. It is a suburb of the twin cities. The 911 desk has a single operator, so you can imagine the demand and restrictions placed on that one person, right down to getting a chance to perform human bodily functions.
She eventually leaves this job to work as an EMD (Emergency Medical Dispatcher) for a private ambulance company so diversified that it even has air ambulances! One thing you will realize is that dispatchers can and do save lives from their desks by coaching callers about the proper things to do while help is on the way, and by calling the appropriate agencies to handle the situations.
You’ll also realize that they do get emotionally and personally involved with the outcome of the calls, especially when life is at stake, because with very few exceptions, they never leave their positions no matter how serious an incident gets. The exceptions are dispatch centers manned by emergency personnel who would have to leave their posts and call forward to the police for instance, because they have to respond in an emergency vehicle at a busy time.
The chapters will hold your attention. Not all are about calls. Some involve work conditions with respect to time off, seniority, personalities, private space, fatigue and many other aspects of the job. Dispatchers reading this book will relate accordingly with respect to their own work environment and the ever present hierarchy. Personal life comes into play as well because her husband is also a dispatcher and they have a school-aged daughter.
The chapters are peppered with slang, locker room talk, humor and other things that go on amongst themselves, never of course on the air or on the phone. The reader will be amazed about how many diversified emergencies happen in the jurisdiction.
I believe this book will help educate readers about the highs and lows of the job and about how versatile dispatchers can be, helping them to respect these workers. She is also the author of “Answering 911, Life in the Hot Seat".