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Dispatcher profiles

Learn more about a day in the life of a 9-1-1 Police Dispatcher. Discover why our Police Dispatchers live their passion and love what they do.

Active shooter in Vanderhoof: How 9-1-1 Police Dispatchers responded

Vanderhoof Detachment

No one expected this would happen. The shots rang out just after noon on November 25, 2021. A male suspect fired multiple shots at vehicles and at the Vanderhoof RCMP Detachment. Staff at the Detachment took cover to avoid being struck by incoming gunfire. Many police officers ran out of the building toward the sounds of the shots to locate the suspect.

The North District 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre in Prince George received the Officer in Distress alert and the dispatchers acted quickly to respond. As the public called 9-1-1 asking for help and telling the police dispatchers what they had seen or heard, the team of dispatchers worked together to gather as much accurate information as possible, providing it to police officers as they searched for the suspect.

This is an event all dispatchers are trained for but rarely have to use their specialized skills learned in the Immediate Action Rapid Deployment (IARD) course. The training ensured that they had the confidence and ability to know what to do and what officers needed. The dispatchers understood the magnitude of the event and were ready.

They jumped into action calling out the Emergency Response Team, Police Dog Service, Air Services, the Division Duty Officer (DDO), and multiple units from neighbouring detachments. They worked along side the North District Senior Officers and the Critical Incident Commander to support the response of the police officers as they as they rushed to the aid of those at the Vanderhoof Detachment as well as the citizens of the community.

With the direction from the Chief Superintendent Warren Brown, North District Commander, the 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre contacted the DDO, who requested the first Police Initiated Public Safety Alert advising the community of the unfolding situation, instructing them to adhere to police direction, shelter in place, and avoid the area.

North District 9-1-1 Police Dispatchers responding to the active shooter targeting the Vanderhoof Detachment last fall.

The 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre received calls from businesses and the public and instructed those callers to lock their doors and stay inside. They called the schools and advised that they lock down their facilities to keep students and staff safe inside. All the while, the Police Dispatch Centre continued taking 9-1-1 calls for help from the public in the other 36 RCMP detachments across the North District.

When off-duty dispatchers heard the Public Safety Alert, nine dispatchers self deployed or called in to the Police Dispatch Centre to offer their assistance.

These nine dispatchers were instrumental in supporting the incident. Their presence allowed the primary dispatcher and those working along side of her to focus on the unfolding event with all of its complexities.

Communication with police officers in Vanderhoof was continual and uninterrupted.

When the danger in Vanderhoof had passed, the entire dispatch team was relieved from their duties to have an immediate Critical Incident Debrief, and to catch their breath.

During this debrief, boxes of pizza were delivered to the Police Dispatch Centre, sent from a dispatcher who was not able to come to the Centre.

After the dispatchers had a few moments to decompress, the team went back to the floor to finish their shift.

Our dispatchers trusted in their training and were the ‘heroes behind the call,’ keeping our police officers and the public safe during an emergent and high risk situation, says Blane Angielski, Team Leader, North District 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre. All involved demonstrated professionalism, teamwork and dedication to their call for service and they supported one another before, during and after the event.

Often unseen and unknown, the 9-1-1 Police Dispatchers are the essential link between the police and the public.

Chief Superintendent Warren Brown also congratulated the dispatchers. I was so overly impressed with how professional our Police Dispatchers behaved and took control. Calm, collected, deliberate, and well organized. They were taking incoming 9-1-1 calls; sharing information between dispatchers, supervisors, and managers; collecting data and intel on the suspect; liaising with the DDO; providing a calm influence; and coordinating the officers while they were under fire and in pursuit. Nothing less than outstanding. Thank you 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre for the epitome of excellence!

As a result of the collective efforts of all those involved, the shooter was taken into custody and no one was injured.
 


Crane collapses at a Kelowna construction site causing massive damage

Kelowna Detachment

The first call was a report an industrial accident in downtown Kelowna. But, the true magnitude of the incident wasn’t clear to the 9-1-1 Police Dispatcher who took the call on the morning of July 12, 2021. It wasn’t until the Kelowna RCMP officers arrive on scene that the scope of the disaster became clear. A massive crane collapsed at a construction site, falling into the office building next door as well as a senior’s home.

Multiple requests came in from the officers calling for additional support. They reported details about the incident at a rapid fire pace.

Other 9-1-1 Police Dispatchers stepped up to handle a number of these requests, as well as managing the other 9-1-1 calls for the remaining 50 detachments that the 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre serves.

An additional factor that complicated the response was that BC was experiencing a heat dome, a high-pressure weather system that trapped the heat, with record-high temperatures across the province reaching up to 49.6°C.

The police dispatchers needed to notify businesses and partner agencies and coordinate their support. They contacted the BC Ambulance Service, Kelowna Fire Department, WorkSafeBC, BC Hydro, the construction company, Kelowna City Hall, and the hospital. Other RCMP resources were dispatched to the scene, including a traffic analyst to assist with the deployment of a drone to capture the broader view of the collapse crane and surrounding buildings that were impacted.

A police dispatcher contacted BC Transit to request air-conditioned buses to transfer the evacuated residents of the business and the senior’s home. In a truly selfless and generous act, Safeway donated food and beverages to the evacuees, police officers and first responders that were mustered in their parking lot.

It was soon evident that there were multiple fatalities as a result of the tragedy. Five people died when the crane attached to a high-rise building under construction suddenly collapsed while in the process of being dismantled.

This event was so tragic, and our hearts go out to all that were impacted, said Tracey Arnold, Southeast District 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre Commander. It is during these large incidents where the importance of our SED police dispatchers are highlighted. They are so efficient and professional and will rise to the occasion when the community, partner agencies and police officers need them most.

Southeast District 9-1-1 Police Dispatchers respond to the massive damage caused by a collapsed crane in Kelowna last summer.

With their superior multitasking skills, this incident illustrates the ability police dispatchers have when coordinating an emergency response involving multiple agencies for a devastating crisis affecting so many people.

The amount of coordination required between the primary police dispatcher, backup dispatcher, operations desk, supervisor, and every one else in the 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre that assisted with calls or updates on this file was impressive and functioned seamlessly, said Jason Carter, Team Leader, Southeast District 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre. According to reports from the officers and other first responders on scene and the number of issues the dispatchers had to manage, the team functioned extremely well in the face of this horrible situation. The interplay between of all the agencies and emergency professionals was seamless.

Besides their training and experience, it is the strong sense of teamwork that ensures everything that needs to be done, gets done well. It is my honour to celebrate this amazing group of people during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, said Tracey Arnold.
 


More than a voice at the end of the line

Sharla

Sharla Duchscherer always knew she wanted to be in policing. She wanted to help people get the assistance they needed and to know that she was valued for the work she did.

Sharla has been a 9-1-1 Police Dispatcher for 15 years and is currently the Recruiter for the North District 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre in Prince George. Sharla is passionate about the work she does and is very proud to work in police services, supporting RCMP officers on the road, ensuring police and public safety.  

You have to care about people—people you’ve never met—and want to be there to help them. You need to have an empathic nature, says Sharla.

We are here to serve the public, says Sharla. I feel rewarded making a difference in someone’s life, no matter how small.

The role of the dispatcher is multifaceted, and we answer 9-1-1 emergency as well as the non-emergency calls that come into the Centre. In addition to assisting callers during an emergency, educating the public on the role of police in relation to public safety is also part of what we do.

Even if the caller didn’t understand how policing or the law worked, she explained the system so the caller understood.

For example, Sharla would receive a call asking for something that was not a police matter, such as a custody issue, which falls under family law. 

If we just said, the police don’t do that, and end the call, it is not a good reflection of what we do and what we are here for, says Sharla. But, if I take the time to explain the difference between family law and criminal law, the caller will then understand that the police only deal with criminal law. Family law issues are the responsibility of the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the caller would need to contact their legal council. Unless there is endangerment to the child or if there is a court order enforceable by the RCMP, the police would not attend. 

Knowing that I am there for someone, sending them the help they need, is the reward for doing this job, says Sharla. It’s not an easy job. Not everyone can do it. It’s not a Monday to Friday 9-5 job. Crime does not stop at 5:00 p.m. or on weekends. 

People don’t see us, adds Sharla. We are only the voice at the end of the line. But callers know that police dispatchers are there to get them help no matter what the situation is. It’s our job to keep the public and our police officers safe.

For many, when you start working in the 9-1-1 police dispatcher environment, you are tested. You need to build resilience and learn how to self-assess how this job affects your life, but the reward is worth it. Dispatchers learn how to manage it.  

Sometimes the end result is so rewarding because everything turns out alright. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. 

But that is what fuels us—that’s what makes us tick, adds Sharla.

That is what she tells her new recruits. You have to have a passion for excellence, be able to make important decisions very quickly, know how to prioritize and not be rattled by constant change. You have to have a strong work ethic.

What you need is ‘grit’, says Sharla. This is a critically important job. You have to be ready because, when the rubber meets the road, you have to be on it. There is little room for error. You have to trust your training and know that what you’ve been taught is what you will need to know in any given situation.

Things are never black and white in the policing world. Things are very grey. The 9-1-1 RCMP Police Dispatch training program teaches police dispatchers how to dig into that grey and get the facts as quickly as they can to not only help the callers, but the police officers as well, so they know what situation they are facing.

We want our police officers to go home to their families at the end of their shift; and for callers to know we will do everything we can to ensure their safety, says Sharla. 

To be a successful police dispatcher, you have to have drive and passion; you have to want to make a difference and be committed to public safety. 

It’s important to know that you will be hearing about someone else’s crisis and you are trained how you will respond. 

North District 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Program is actively looking for new recruits. The first step is to visit the BCRCMP911.ca website where the entire process is outlined. The application process has eight steps: 9-1-1 Police Dispatcher Application Process chart.

We always encourage people to start by taking the self-evaluation questionnaire called, Is this career right for you? says Sharla. It’s a good tool as it gives you an idea of the kind of attributes we are looking for. It also makes you self-reflect and determine if you would like to be part of this highly active, dynamic environment.

The next step is to attend the Career Presentation. It’s a valuable overview of the application process and the importance this job. There are audio clips of real 9-1-1 calls so people have a better sense of what it’s really like and what to expect. It reviews the training, the pay and benefits, but it also touches on lifestyle, what it’s like to be a shift worker and about the collaborative culture at the Operational Communications Centre. After the presentation, there is a one-on-one session for people who have specific questions.

People come into this role from all walks of life. It’s a career, not a job. Once you are here and assist callers in their time of need, it becomes something that runs in your veins.

Laughter is a big part of what we do, says Sharla. We have a caring culture at the 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre. It’s like our second family. We have to laugh and work as a team. We cannot do this job alone, we support our co-workers at all times. That’s what keeps up our morale. We hear amazing things over our headset—some really great things—as well as the challenging calls. To be part of a good team of colleagues is so gratifying.  

Dispatchers are truly the first of the first responders.

Unlike the police officers, no one sees us, says Sharla. But, we are link the caller to the officer. We are like the front line of the army that first to scout out what’s happening up ahead and come back to advise the troops, in our case, the officers. We make the connection between what the caller is telling us and the information the attending officer needs to know to respond to the call effectively. They must have as much information as possible to ensure the public’s safety, while safeguarding their own protection.  

Dispatchers are more than just the voice at the other end of the line. They are the lifeline.

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