The holidays are upon us.

With that said, the emergencies do not stop. Dispatch is the center for all emergencies big and small, and some that are not emergencies at all.

I would like to say that every dispatcher gets to share the same family time as with regular business-hour days. With 9-1-1, every second is business hours. There is no shut down time, no “sorry we are closed for the holidays” signs to place in the window, no recordings saying that the office is closed for the holiday or that the office will reopen at a certain time. Dispatchers do not get to step away while still on duty to sit down with family at home.

Dispatch is a small area with usually two or three dispatchers working at one time. They are in close proximity that makes the teamwork easier when helping each other.

Imagine if you will a few hours of their holiday time in dispatch:

Today there are three dispatchers on, it is near lunch time. On this day, one of the local fire departments has delivered meals for dispatch. In our small center, there is no set time for a lunch break, and dispatchers eat at their workstation in between calls. At 11:50 a.m., the phone rings,

Dispatcher 1: “9-1-1 where is your emergency?”

Caller: “Earl has done burnt the turkey! We need help here now everyone is mad as all get out, hurry we need help!”

Dispatcher 1 (Tyler) can hear all the commotion in the background of this call. The caller is very anxious and wanting help there quickly. Tyler is able to obtain the address and verify the phone number, and is asking the questions and trying to figure out what kind of help is needed.

Is it law enforcement because everyone is mad? Could it be medical because Earl may have been burned, or is it the fire department to help with the turkey?

Tyler: “Ma’am, I need you to calm down and tell me what kind of help you need. What exactly happened?”

Caller: “I told you that Earl burned the turkey, you need to hurry before the whole house is on fire!”

Tyler: “Is there a fire now?”

Caller: “Yes, the back porch is burning!”

11:51 Dispatcher 2 (Brad) is notifying the fire department.

Tyler: “Get everyone out of the house.”

Caller: “We are out of the house; they are using the water hose to try and put it out.”

Tyler: “How did the porch catch fire?”

Caller: “Because Earl wanted to deep fry the turkey and he put too much oil in it. That oil splashed and the porch is a burning.”

At 11:51, the phone rings just as dispatcher 3 (Dakota) has taken a bite of dressing. Multitasking is an understatement when it comes to dispatch, and yes, sometimes talking with food in your mouth is a skill that all dispatchers master. He quickly answers.

Dakota: “9-1-1, where is your emergency?”

Caller: “We were having dinner with my grandparents, and I think my grandpa is having a heart attack. Hurry, get here!”

Dakota: What is the address you are at?

Caller: “I don’t know; we just came down from Kansas City. I will find out.”

Dakota: “OK, ask someone or see if it is written down anywhere. Where is your grandpa now?”

Dakota obtains the address and phone number from the caller. Also, thorough questions determined that grandpa was 78-year-old male with no other medical history.

At 11:53, Brad has notified the ambulance and first responders for grandpa. Dakota and Tyler are still talking with their callers giving lifesaving pre-arrivals. That lunch that was warm a few minutes ago is still there waiting for them.

At 11:54…

809: “809 to 9-1-1 traffic stop at Grand and Walnut.”

Brad: “Copy 809 at 11:54”

Dakota: “Unit 21 [ambulance] show you en route at 11:55. This patient has no heart or other medical history; he is having trouble breathing and chest pains.”

Tyler: “Ma’am, do not go near the turkey.”

Brad: “809 that license checks to…”

At 11:56, the phone rings.

Brad: “9-1-1 where is your emergency?”

Caller: “I need someone to come out here and look at this.”

Brad: “What is it that needs to be looked at?”

Caller: “I believe I may have a spider bite; it has been red for a few days and it doesn’t feel right.”

Brad obtains the information, and that the caller wanted an ambulance to come check out the possible spider bite that they have had for three days. They did not have a ride to the hospital or doctor. This caller did not want to stay on the phone with Brad and said they would be waiting for the ambulance on the porch.

An ambulance was dispatched by Brad. Tyler is finishing up his call with the turkey fire, and the fire department for that area is on the way along with another fire department to help. Dakota is still on the line with the possible heart attack. Houston officer 809 finished his traffic stop.

Dakota: “Do you have him in a resting position?”

Caller: “Yes but he is not doing so well, I think he stopped breathing! Oh, help, get here now!”

Dakota: “They are on the way. Let’s get him down on the floor.”

As Brad and Tyler hear that Dakota is giving additional pre-arrival instruction, they update the ambulance and first responders. This residence happens to be well into the rural part of the county, so the response time is a little longer.

Dakota: “I am going to talk you through CPR.”

Tyler: “Texas County 9-1-1 to unit 21, CPR has begun.”

Over the next hour or so, call after call rings in. Another medical call – a 28-year-old had a seizure. Police call of stolen gun. Police call for a domestic dispute. Police call for a child not listening to his parents. Fire call to check out the smoke in the chimney. Four more traffic stops.

Dispatchers hear every emergency that takes place during their shift. Unfortunately, they will experience many major traumatic situations in one shift. Other people may only experience one or two in a lifetime. Not only are they hearing the experiences, they are there to help the caller through it. Dispatchers are trained to help save lives with the calm voice.

How busy a shift is with dispatch varies. There are some down times, but those – as everything else – are unpredictable. One at a time, Tyler, Brad and Dakota pick up their plates to take another bite; this time it is not as warm, but it is there – just as these unseen heroes are always there to answer your call, every second of the day.

Please include all responders in your thoughts and prayers – not only during the holiday season, but every day.

On behalf of Texas County 9-1-1, Happy Holidays!

The Texas County Emergency Services office in Houston is funded by a 3/8-cent countywide sales tax approved by voters in 2013. Assistant director Terra Culley can be reached by phone at 417-967-5309 or by email at

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