Exceeding people’s expectations isn’t hard to do

B.C., 911 Police Dispatch, This Is What We Do

2020-08-04 09:59 PDT

Patricia Wick

9-1-1 Police Dispatchers handle the full spectrum of emergency and non-emergency calls and requests for public safety services. Which means they often have to get creative and come up with solutions quickly.

Going a little above and beyond can make someone’s otherwise aggravating day better. Exceeding people’s expectations isn’t hard to do.

Like all dispatchers, Patricia Wick wants to help people. But often the caller has limited information about where they are and become frantic.

To provide that high quality of service, I think to myself, ‘What if it was my family member in trouble? What would I want the 9-1-1 police dispatcher do to help them?’

Her detective skills were needed when a young woman called in the middle of a snowstorm in northern BC who had been to a party in another city and was driving home taking the back roads. Her car got stuck in the snow and she was lost. With no buildings or homes in sight, she decided to walk down the road to find help. She was definitely not dressed for the weather wearing a short skirt, light jacket and ankle boots. When she called 9-1-1, she was crying.

Cell service was poor in the rural area and the connection kept dropping. Patricia was able to ping her cellphone and reconnect with the young woman. By that time, she had spotted a farmhouse and knocked at the door, but there was no answer. There was no number on the house and no road sign in sight, so Patricia asked if she could see anything that would identify the location of the property.

I asked her if she saw a vehicle parked in front of the house, said Patricia. She did, so I asked her to tell me the licence plate number.

Patricia tracked down the name and address and phone number of the registered owner.

I phoned the residence, woke up the homeowner, and explained the circumstances, says Patricia.

The woman went outside to look for the young woman who had gone into the barn to keep warm. The woman brought her into her home to where it was warm and safe and comforted her until her mother could come to get her.

By going the extra mile, Patria was able to reassure the young woman that she was there to help her and not to panic.

Every call requires several tasks, from prioritizing the calls, questioning the caller regarding the emergency, helping the caller remain calm, providing instructions to the caller, quickly dispatching the police to the scene, and contacting the proper emergency personnel, all the while simultaneously recording the details of the call, the information provided, and the resources that were dispatched.

Dispatchers must have a vast roster of resources, people and organizations in the community that they can call for support. They must know the schools, taxi and tow truck companies, emergency and medial services, and will often know their staff by name.

However, not all callers are gracious or grateful. Sometimes callers are rude, belligerent or intoxicated and obnoxious.

I’ve had to put myself in to someone else’s shoes and recognize that they are someone’s child, dad, sister, uncle, or grandmother, says Patricia. I try to recognize that they are going through a really tough time. When someone calls 9-1-1, we are here to assist them, not judge them.

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