“No, I’m not an officer, I’m just a dispatcher.”

Words like this are spoken within the 911 profession all over the country.  Just a dispatcher.  But there is so much more to dispatching than “just a…”.

The phrase started innocently enough in the 911 profession, even early in my career when working at a police department that I used it myself.  The caller is upset with the dispatcher’s answers or questions and asks, most often in a demanding tone, “Are you an officer?”.  The reply is quick, as the dispatcher attempts to avoid the confrontation of the caller… and knowing what is coming next out of the caller’s mouth.  The dispatcher attempts to deflect the caller’s tone and redirect the irritation that is rising.

The answer is acceptable without the one word added, “just”.  When used in this context, “just” as Bing defines the meaning as simply; only; no more than.  With synonyms:  merely · but · nothing but · no more than · at best · at most.

Would an answer to that question ever be: “No, I’m not an officer, I’m no more than a dispatcher.”

Of course not!  Because you are so much more.

A 911 dispatcher, Telecommunicator by professional trade name, is now recognized by many as the First, first responder.  In the panic of the moment, in the terror of the event, the 911 dispatcher is there on the scene first.  Asking questions, gathering information, calming the callers, relaying information to responders will help keep them safe so they can go home at the end of their shift.  The 911 dispatcher may be the only one who can gather information from a victim as the caller provides details before his wounds take his life.  The dispatcher can provide instructions to frantic homeowners to get out of a burning building.  It may seem like common sense, yet at the moment, the calm and insistent instructions are vital.

Just a dispatcher, when you hear this, you should cringe a little inside… no, you are not just a dispatcher.   You are the lifeline for the public safety responders you send on calls.  You are the lifeline for the public who calls you during the worst day of their life.  You can make the difference. Answer that question with all the confidence of your profession:  “No, I’m not an officer;  I am a dispatcher.”

Yes: You are not just a dispatcher, you ARE a dispatcher.