I call myself a “recovering” 9-1-1 center director, but there’s no recovering from some of the most impactful moments of my 20-year career in public safety. It is almost impossible to describe the range of emotions that 9-1-1 dispatchers experience daily as they guide callers through what are likely the most challenging moments of their lives. Sometimes, those calls become the most challenging moments of the dispatchers’ lives as well.
Capturing those experiences in a normal conversation can be difficult, but there are other ways. I write poetry. Some people create podcasts. Others make music. Now, there might be another outlet: a 9-1-1 TV show.
When Fox first announced its new show, “9-1-1,” I had some questions. Would the show include all of the first responders? Would the dispatchers be forgotten? Could a 9-1-1 TV show possibly get it right?
The public safety community sometimes refers to dispatchers as the “Thin Gold Line” between the public and our colleagues in police, fire, and EMS. I worried that the Thin Gold Line would disappear entirely in Fox’s new show. Then I saw the trailer.
There she was, Connie Britton in all her glory, wearing her headset and sitting in the dispatcher’s chair. I was thrilled! If Connie Britton is a dispatcher, then the Thin Gold Line couldn’t possibly be forgotten.
In the trailer, she says, “9-1-1, what’s your emergency.” Not, “where.” This is a common misconception, but the first thing that any dispatcher says when answering a call is actually, “9-1-1, where is your emergency?” It’s an important distinction, especially as more and more calls are made from mobile phones and the nation’s 9-1-1 infrastructure has yet to harness all the available location data from these devices.
Dispatchers need to know the location of the emergency so they can send help as quickly as possible. Seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
Many of us in public safety are rooting for the show; we want Fox’s “9-1-1” to get it right. By “it” I mean several different things — the ups and downs of the daily job, the sacrifices, the joy, the trauma, the relief. And so much more.
I’m hoping that Fox’s “9-1-1” will do justice to my amazing colleagues in public safety. They are saving lives every day and deserve to have a show that fully represents that work. I’m hoping it will be a show that we can all enjoy together — my family, my former coworkers in public safety, and my current coworkers at RapidSOS.
And it’s nice that the Thin Gold Line gets a chance to shine for the world to see.