Douglas Regional Dispatch “delivers”
By Patte Smith; photo courtesy of Douglas Regional Dispatch
When a citizen calls 911 or texts 911, they may be in a heightened emotional state and are unaware that action begins the first moment after their name and address is confirmed by Douglas Regional Dispatch (DRD). At that moment, help is on the way, even while further information is being gathered and instructions are given to the caller by the dispatchers. “We continue to provide updates to the emergency responders when the caller is still on the line,” explained Missy Piche, the emergency medical dispatch training supervisor at DRD.
“Our staff is trained to provide instructions over the phone to help citizens in all situations from CPR to childbirth, along with protecting themselves in dangerous situations,” Piche noted. “At times it can be stressful. Callers can get very upset and frustrated as we are giving them instructions and trying to calm and help them until the responders arrive at the scene. There are times the dispatch team is very concerned when our responders are put in high risk situations.”
The DRD team responds to 911 phone calls, text-to-911 and non-emergency lines for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO), Castle Rock Fire, Larkspur Fire, Franktown Fire, Jackson 105 Fire, Mountain Communities Fire, Elbert County Sheriff’s Office, Elizabeth Police, Simla Police and all seven fire departments within Elbert County. This is an immense coverage area and the DRD team has been thoroughly cross-trained and equipped for any emergency call.
“Early in the morning last fall, I was training a new hire on the dispatch phones,” explained Piche. “The trainee received a call and confirmed the location and phone number. Then the caller said his wife was in labor and he didn’t have time to get her to the hospital. I knew immediately we would be delivering a baby. I jumped out of my chair with excitement. Not only was it compulsory that I take over the call from my trainee; it so happens that this is my most favorite type of call to take.”
“The family lived in a remote area, so I knew response time would be longer even with them driving lights and sirens. Sure enough, within three minutes, a baby girl was born. Mom, dad and baby were healthy and happy. This is one of the most memorable moments in my career. I was also lucky enough to eventually meet the family and hold the baby girl.”
Although there are emotionally difficult times throughout a dispatcher’s career such as loss from an injury or death of a first responder – school shootings and providing CPR instructions that result in a death – Piche focuses on the positive. She admits there is emotional stress but also emphasizes that it is very rewarding when there is a positive outcome such as saving a patient with CPR, delivering babies or being there to comfort a frightened caller.
“In the past couple of years, the culture has changed in how we take care of each other professionally,” she emphasizes. “We are fortunate to be a part of an organization that invests heavily in strong peer support and ensures we have the right tools to deal with the stresses of the profession. It helps all of us remain mentally healthy to care for ourselves, our families and the citizens we serve.”