Saturday, July 19, 2008

The various faces of emergency communications...

So, I have worked in Emergency Communications for quite a few years now. Mostly, I have handled calls related to police, but recently began handling calls for people requiring fire or EMS (emergency medical services). It's been a really interesting transition between these two very different areas of the job.

When you are dealing with police calls, quite often, callers can be rude, ignorant, mean, swear at you, etc. People generally don't seem to like the police a whole lot, at least not the ones that require their services on a more frequent basis (yet they keep calling). When you are dealing with callers needing medical help, they are friendly, nice, really desperate for your reassurance and help. They are grateful that you are sending someone to help. It's a very different kind of caller. Now, don't get me wrong, occassionally you talk to someone who can be rude or swear on EMS or Fire calls, but for the most part, callers are so much nicer. And on the flipside, there are many people who call the police that are quite nice, but as a general rule, if you are going to talk to someone who feels the need to be rude and swear, it's more than likely going to be someone who needs the police.

Which brings me to my other observation about the different calls for the different emergency services. Having talked to police related callers for so long, I find it very easy to keep myself separate from the events they are describing. In all my years, only a handful of calls have truly bothered me. I've talked to all kinds of people reporting many different and very horrific things (like murders, attempted murders, suicides, rapes, etc), and seldom am I bothered by those calls. It's easy to remove yourself from the situation and not get too close. On the EMS side of things though, it isn't always that easy. I have talked to a variety of people reporting emergencies their loved ones are going through (heart attacks, choking, babies being born, someone stopping breathing etc). With these calls though, sometimes afterwards I feel for the people, much more than I ever have on the police side. I guess with nicer callers, it's tough to hear someone who's stressed because their loved one has stopped breathing and all they want is for someone to get their quick and help them. I think part of it has to do with the fact that in an emergant medical case, the patient (victim), has done nothing wrong and simply having an emergency. They aren't hurt because they are drunk or fighting with someone, they are just having a medical emergency. On the police side, often victims are partly victims of their circumstance (domestics are what immediately pops to mind). So where you have no control over a medical situation (most of the time), often with a police situation, there are things the victim could have done to prevent it (now, I know that this is easier said than done many times, but after police have been called to the same address for like the 25th time, and both the offender and victim are drunk, it's just not as easy to feel sorry for those people as it is for the 65 year old lady who just saw her husband have a heart attack and collapse in front of her).

Now, keep in mind I've only been answering EMS calls for a few months now, so perhaps I will develop the same kind of ability to disassociate myself from the calls, but in the meantime, I find it ironic that I can so easily disassociate from police calls, yet sometimes an EMS call will linger for longer.

That's all I've got for today.


Claudia said...

Isn't it amazing that every job has facets to it that are completely ignored by whoever doesn't do that job? I totally didn't know there were different types of EMS callers out there! I guess every job has it's nuances and funny bits, just like being a Disney CM - working different shifts and locations was always totally different.

Jody said...

I think you managed to nail down very succinctly one of the big differences between the 2 service branches. I often get comments from people, saying how stressful and hard my job must be, but I never really feel it. I think the most stress must come from what you've described, because every call would be that much harder when it hits that much closer to home. Interesting observations!