Update: I just picked my son up from school, and I am going to spend the afternoon with him. I will come back and answer more questions tonight :)

Comments: 400 • Responses: 106  • Date: 

Jtaa7143 karma

So, I take it you know how to stay safe at night then, right ? ;) in all seriousness though, as a former dispatcher and current LEO, thanks for everything you do. Being a dispatcher was way more stressful than being a cop. Now, I worry about myself and my coworkers, but actually having the ability to do something first hand is way better than having to sit back and listen when the shit hits the fan.

Where I worked we answered 911 calls while dispatching. I remember one shift I was going through EMD (emergency medical dispatch) with a parent that found their 5 year old face down in their pool. While that was going on a 44ip (armed robbery in progress) came up on my dispatch screen. Gave the 44 call out and had a unit confirm the location, as he was sitting in the parking lot at that very address (a bank with parking on two sides- he was on one side, 3 masked men with long rifles entered on the other side).

Next thing I know, I have the officer screaming "63, 63, 63 (OFFICER NEEDS HELD RIGHT AWAY) SHOTS FIRED!!!" The panic in his voice and hearing shots in the background I will never forget.

Meanwhile, I am still having to talk this lady through CPR ( while following EMD protocol to the "t", and update that call in CAD for fireboard while simultaneously entering all the information from the 44 call into CAD and dispatching units to that scene and relaying all that information across my radio frequency and updating the 911 center (12 other frequencies/precincts) of the situation so they could advise the units on their frequencies and to notify the operator that picks up dispatching duties for my frequency when my radio is held for emergency traffic only (such as a unit out on a call with shots fired).

To have to do all that, while listening to a mother cry as she is losing her baby and listen to an officer screaming for help as they are being shot at by 3 guys with long rifles- that drains a person. Just sitting there knowing that you are the lifeline for all these people and knowing that you play a major part in their survival, yet are physically powerless to stop it- and are expected to move on like nothing happened once it is over, because as always, their are more 911 calls ringing and more calls for service are popping up in your dispatch screen.

Then having to keep track of 12-25 officers at all times and putting up with all their requests...

Screw that. I'll take my glock, my ar-15, my fire extinguisher, my AED, my medical bag, and my crown Vic and and my MDT and do everything myself and with my buddy and only have a tenth of the stress.

Whatever you do- make sure you take time for yourself and your family. Take vacations and just get away from it all everyone in a while.

And don't date cops ;)

TenaMae27 karma

I don't date cops..I avoid them like the plague (in the most respectful way possible ;) ). I am happily seeing someone who works in retail.

High five to you. Thanks for all you do! I can't imagine call taking and dispatching simultaneously. We are scheduled in one room or the other each night.

TareXmd4 karma

Wow. So, when did you get the ulcer?

TenaMae6 karma

Between the stress and the take out for dinner, anywhere between year 3 and year 5.

I joke. You learn to deal with it and function effectively and quickly under pressure.

Mistersinister128 karma

When was your last desk pop?

TenaMae45 karma

I'm a peacock, you gotta let me fly!

abaady9022 karma

Do people dare to prank 911?

TenaMae48 karma

Yes. Mostly kids 8-10.

They don't realize I can lookup where they live. If they call enough, I send a police officer to their house to make their parents aware.

abaady9029 karma

another question: if I call 911 by mistake or my child played with the phone and phone 911? should I just hangup quickly?

TenaMae49 karma

Always stay on the line and let us know it was a mistake. It happens all the time. If I get a hangup, I send an officer to check that address.

WhaleQueefs25 karma

but what if the person saying it was a mistake was the person holding you hostage?

TenaMae51 karma

We have ways of knowing. I cannot reveal them.

I also use my discretion..if it seems hinky, I err on the side of caution and send police anyway.

RKIvey27 karma

LEO here. Upvote for using the frequently used by LEOs word "hinky". Seriously though, I love my dispatchers.

TenaMae22 karma

And I love my units!

antoninj3 karma

I'm guessing it's the fact that the phone records the call before you even pick up? I could see that as very useful.

TenaMae6 karma

Yup. Always on a recorded line. Comes in handy when you have a caller who is hard to understand. We can go back, slow it down, etc etc.

chargerz4life8 karma

Do LEO have to know all the streets or how does that work?

I always see in movies and TV shows stuff like "suspect turned right on 83 street" I'd be like, where the Fuck is 83 street?

TenaMae6 karma

The police are split into precincts, and they generally know them pretty well. I have most of my jurisdiction memorized, as do most dispatchers, so we can guide units if needed.

But_Do_U_Even_Lift18 karma

I must say, I appreciate your services that you commit to for the greater good of the public. But, do you even lift?

TenaMae49 karma

You know, I got a prank call asking that last week.

Do I need to send an officer to your house, Mr?

CatcherOfMice15 karma

What emergency has affected your life the most, if any?

TenaMae32 karma

Kidnapping/missing child that ended with a dead child. I am a mom, there is no scarier thought to me.

intentsman15 karma

I read about someone calling 911 because the drive thru was out of whatever it was they wanted to eat. What's the most ridiculous non-emergency non-prank call you took, and how was it resolved?

TenaMae33 karma

One woman would call to have someone turn off her tv, feed her dog, get her mail, etc. This went on for a year or so, then she was charged with 911 misuse.

imnevergoingtopost15 karma

Have you ever had a call where you just had to follow up and find out how it ended? Can you tell the story?

TenaMae27 karma

I try not to. It can get kind of depressing.

TenaMae25 karma

I could if I wanted to. Don't get me wrong, I care about people, that is why I do what I do. But once I know help is with them, I move on to the next call.

Enraged-Programmer14 karma

Yesterday my 2 yr old took a hard dive off the bed and smashed her head on the corner of the night stand. She didn't really pass out but she was very dazed- I freaked out (mostly because of how it looked-there was a dent in her forehead that's now a big bump) and called 911. They came out and looked her over and basically said to ice it and watch her closely. I felt really dumb for calling them out for what amounted to a bump on the head, and guilty for using their time when they could have been somewhere else more urgent. Are calls like mine common or am I the doofus-mom of the week?

TenaMae18 karma

That is your decision. Calls like that don't bother me. I am a mom, I get it. If you ever question if you should call 911, just call. Better safe than sorry. :)

pete80014 karma

I am a firefighter. Stopped by to say thank you for doing what you. Sorry if we yell at you. We both deal with crap when there is a fire.

TenaMae14 karma

Everyone yells at me, I am used to it. No big.

And thank you for what you do!

hayleyamorris13 karma

Why do the dispatchers ask for a location if they have software that can find it?

TenaMae18 karma

We don't always have the address. For landline calls, we see the phone bill information. So, if you have recently moved, we may be seeing your old address.

Cell phones are a different beast. Depending on your provider, we might be able to see exactly where you are. More often than not we can only narrow it down to a 1/2 mile radius.

Then of course, you might be calling for an emergency that is elsewhere.

fa537 karma

That's good to know. We just moved 5 miles from our old house and kept the same number. Billing address changed, but there could be some lag before records are updated.

TenaMae14 karma

I would suggest looking up your jurisdiction's non emergency number and giving them a call. Have them double check that the info on their screen is accurate :)

kittlepork12 karma

Baltimore resident here(go ravens!) Chopped my fingers up in a blender 2 months ago when home alone. My interaction with the fantastic 911 dispatcher made a huge difference in those initial moments when I thought I would pass out. Thank you so much for your patience and service to the community!!!

TenaMae14 karma

How are you fingers??

anonymous354012 karma

have you taken a call that disturbed you? what was it about?

TenaMae31 karma

First call that really got in my head was a dad that came home and found his baby in cardiac arrest. It was evident someone had smothered and shaken the baby. He was a mess, scared, and angry, but I got him to start CPR. He begged me to stay on the phone with him once police and ambo arrived, so I know the baby didn't live.

IamRule3412 karma

What's the strangest thing you've ever had happen while dispatching? Sorry if you've already had this question.

TenaMae42 karma

Once a guy called because he was double over in extreme abdominal pain. Matched the description of an aortic aneurysm. So I send and ambulance, delta response.....and then the guy farts, like a loud deep fart...and says "oh man, I feel better. You can cancel the ambulance, sorry!"

drphilcolonaccident6 karma

Were you mad?

TenaMae15 karma

I had to mute myself and laugh. I was glad he was ok though.

calpuccino11 karma

What percentage of your calls are alcohol related?

TenaMae15 karma

I work midnight shift. So from 2230-0330 I would say 80% involve alcohol or drug use.

Mallorykn0x11 karma


Have you ever directly saved somebody's life? For example, dealing with a suicidal person, talking someone through CPR and the person 'came back to life', getting the police to apprehend a madman just as they were about to murder someone, etc?

Such an emotive job, you must have to switch off your feelings sometimes.

TenaMae22 karma

I have had many a suicidal person. A few have died on the phone with me. Some I stalled until help got there. A few I have talked out of it. My highest success rate is with teens.

I have talked people through 2 deliveries, they are my favorites. I love babies :)

I have had 2 cpr patients live, that I know of (I try not to follow through on my calls.) Most do not make it, unfortunately.

Mallorykn0x5 karma

I bet it's hard to beat the buzz you must feel when you talk somebody through a delivery and hear an overwhelmed, exhausted father/friend/relative saying, "IT'S A BOY!?! "

You've got balls to be able to handle suicides. I think I'd end up crying my eyes out every time instead of actually being helpful.

Have you ever heard something terrible going on? Like a shooting, somebody hiding from a murderer, or somebody being beaten up?

TenaMae15 karma

A lot of times you hear horrible things. That is when the "numb" thing comes into play. I do whatever I need to and whatever I can to get them help. Then when it is all said and done, take a deep breath.

My callers amaze me. Especially children. The callers are my eyes and are best at this. They tell you everything. Sometimes it is sad because it is a violent domestic between their parents and they call. We had one little girl win an award for saving her grandfather's life by calling 911 when he had a heart attack (she was like 6 I think).

nicolascage111 karma

What is the stupidest reason you have had somebody call 911?

TenaMae44 karma

I listed a few in response to other questions, so I will list a new one. I had someone call because her (intoxicated) boyfriend wouldn't let her control the radio while he was driving. Halfway through the call she realized she had just called her own boyfriend in for DWI.

sifat3d10 karma

Do you ever get confession calls, like "Im sorry,but I killed my friend,I didnt want to,buy I did..." That kind?

TenaMae27 karma

Yuppppp. A lot, actually.

One guy killed his own grandmother, called and confessed, then killed himself.

guitarprorocks10 karma

What do people call about the most?

TenaMae13 karma

Traffic accidents, by far.

Second would be for ambulance, specifically for trouble breathing.

bastaxxo8 karma

Is it a good idea or not if one sees debris or something big in the lane on a highway? What about a car accident even with the understanding that others may have already called?

TenaMae14 karma

Calling doesn't hurt. "Are you guys aware of the accident/debris at blah blah blah?" Perfect way to word it :)

Wakeboardezz0310 karma

Do you have a secret list of direct numbers to police, fire, medical, or other orginazitions?

TenaMae18 karma

I wouldn't say it is secret, but we have a big list, yes.

Sometimes people call and need 911 in a state across the country because of a suicidal family member. I look up the number and connect them in.

squandrew3 karma

I've called 911 because of a suicidal family member that was a state away. I had to be transferred and repeat my story 3-4 times to different operators before finally getting someone to respond on scene. It took a good 5-6 minutes. I feel like was a bit long to actually get someone to dispatch help. Is that typical?

TenaMae8 karma

Depending on what state you are being transferred to, it can be lengthy because they're all organized differently. It helps if you know the county and state. I stay on the line until my caller is with the right jurisdiction.

TheM1ghtyCondor9 karma

Have you ever got a call where someone was in their house and they were hiding from the robber?

TenaMae14 karma

Quite often, actually. I keep an open line after getting the info I need, and tell them to talk only if needed. I make sure officers are with them and they're safe before I hang up.

TheM1ghtyCondor12 karma

Have you ever been on the phone with someone in this situation and the robber found them?

TenaMae13 karma

Thankfully, no. The first thing I have them do is lock their bedroom door. Plus burglars tend to not be confrontational, in my experience. I guess it depends on what their intents were when breaking in.

LowBatteryDamnIt3 karma

Have you ever called someone back after they hung up while they were hiding from a robber, and then the robber herd the phone ring and it gave that person away?

TenaMae12 karma

Nope. I'm not Halle Berry.

kevhash39 karma

What Diagnostic is this from???

Has s/he passed black or bloody stools in the last 24 hours?

Just kidding...You are doing a great job, you have a couple of dispatchers here in Salt Lake City, UT reading your AMA.

Are you just EMD certified at your center or are you a double or tri accredited center?

TenaMae12 karma

Aspirin diagnostic, cmon now, son! ;)

Hi fellow 911 peeps!

We are double for now. Phasing into tri, I believe.

matthewkalik9 karma

Does it ever take a toll on you having to hear peoples most frantic and sometimes dangerous moments on the other line?

TenaMae13 karma

For lack of a better term, I am numb now. I am still empathetic, I care about people. But nothing really phases me anymore. Self preservation, in a way.

EtanSivad8 karma

Does your dispatching software show you a realtime GPS of the ambulances/firetrucks? Used to work for a software company that would do that and it blew my mind the first time I saw it in action.

TenaMae7 karma

No, only police vehicles. Why we don't have it in fire/ambo beats me. I wish we did.

drdeadringer8 karma

What was your application process like?

TenaMae14 karma

LONG! I applied in March, took an aptitude test in May. Then a typing speed test in July. I had a three panel interview shortly after in August. Then a personal history/background interview in September and psych eval and physical. Got finger printed in December and started in January.

Gravy-Leg__8 karma

If you are on duty when a disaster strikes that threatens your personal safety (e.g., flood, hurricane, tornado), are you required to stay on the job or can you leave?

TenaMae20 karma

Required to stay. I am considered essential personnel.

Nohat_wears_a_hat8 karma

A few years back taking a late night walk at around 2am I found a box dumped on the side of the road containing blood samples, had biohazard all over it, lots of the vials were broken all over the road. They had biohazard all over their labels, but that's standard practice for any sort of blood sample I believe. Concerned that I didn't know what was in the blood I called 911. Was this a legitimate use or a misuse?

TenaMae10 karma

Legit. That's a hazardous condition...

And ew, random blood samples.

Nohat_wears_a_hat6 karma

It was a large box that was FULL of them, and this was a side street, not much traffic. The officer that showed up was just as confused as I was. Always wondered why it was dumped, and what kind of samples they were.

TenaMae15 karma

The obvious answer is bubonic plague.

SalvadorSnipez8 karma

Are there people that are like "regulars" they keep calling because something is always wrong? like hypochondriacs?

TenaMae32 karma

Frequent flyers. Alzheimer's patients who insist they are being held captive, hypochondriacs, angry people who don't like their name it, people call for it.

I always hear them out. Who knows, one day they may have a real emergency.

jjohann843 karma


TenaMae3 karma

I feel bad for them. But often times I hear them out and talk to them while a coworker contacts the nursing home.

[deleted]1 karma


TenaMae1 karma

Frequent flyers would be ironic....

MassiveMull7 karma

What's the most bizarre call you've had? :)

TenaMae38 karma

Naked man with a sword walking on the interstate takes the cake.

He was on acid.

Bohknows147 karma

Just saying hello from another center in Maryland. Keep up the good work! Going to Navigator next week?

TenaMae6 karma

No, unfortunately I am not :( I work all week.

But hi!

PixelOrange7 karma

Are the windows of your building bullet proof? I always thought that was funny. As if anyone knows where the 911 centers are, let alone has the audacity to try to shoot at one.

TenaMae14 karma

We don't have windows, we are in a tunnel. :)

PixelOrange14 karma

Well that's depressing.

TenaMae15 karma

Makes you appreciate outdoors more.

FapFlop6 karma

Why do you give the IT department such a hard time?

TenaMae12 karma

I love my IT guys (we call them CAD. Support). One of them is especially adorable.

Anyway, the only honest answer I have is "because I can."

Ceala6 karma

Hi, I work for a security company and spend a lot of time on the phone with dispatchers for various things. First I just want to say thank you for all you do and I know (due to our company policy) we call police for some pretty strange things. That being said I normally have dispatchers either be super nice or cranky with me when I give our normal spiel, is their anything that (in your opinion) you find makes handling a call easier or harder?

TenaMae10 karma

Don't volunteer the info unless we ask it (at least right off the bat). A lot of time security companies talk faster than we can type, and on those calls I prefer the info be organized in a specific order. Other than that, I would say be polite and do what you need to. Some dispatchers are just grumpy, unfortunately.

HGpennypacker6 karma

I'm taking the initial 911/dispatch exam for employment next week! After reading your responses you generally seem to enjoy what you do: helping those in your community. To someone who may be getting into the field what, if any, comments would you have?

TenaMae4 karma

Do not take anything personally. You need to be thick skinned. And if your trainer is hard on you, that is a good thing.

And good luck!

Samsterdam6 karma

What's the best way to let you know there is a problem without letting you know that there is a problem?

TenaMae8 karma

When we ask if everything is ok, simply answer "no". The operator can usually pick up on tones etc.

Myronicus6 karma

What made you want to choose such a stressful job?

TenaMae15 karma

My dad is a police officer (he supervises the crime lab, fun stuff!). I played around with the idea of following in his footsteps and joining the force, but decided against it. Anyway, his Lt insisted that I would be amazing at this job. After about a year of coaxing, I applied, and it turns out I am good at it, and I love what I do.

Blitzed975 karma

Whats the worst thing you've despatched an officer to? "Pardon my english"

TenaMae7 karma

Child hit by a car going 80+. VERY angry/upset parents. Everyone was very emotional, especially the driver of the vehicle, as you can imagine.

If you're at a mall that sits by a highway or main road, keep an eye on your kid in the parking lot.

Posts_Bad_Theories8 karma

What the fuck. The driver was angry?

TenaMae8 karma

She was emotional, not angry. She was the one that called. Crying so hard I could barely understand her. On top of it she had the parents screaming at her, bystanders screaming at the parents. Huge chaotic mess.

Spartans1743 karma

I assume the kid died?

TenaMae3 karma

Yeah....pretty much on impact.

axpmaluga5 karma

What do you do during downtime at work?

TenaMae7 karma

I draw a lot. Crochet. Read. I mix it up.

Right now I am working on a few tattoo mock ups for friends and a baby blanket for my cousin's baby. Pretty standard boring and quiet hobbies.

elloquent5 karma

When calling 911, what is the order of information a person should give? Like, start by telling name and address, then move onto the nature of the incident?

TenaMae9 karma

Location always first.

The questions in order of how I ask them:



Phone #?

"Tell me exactly what happened":

People quickly get anxious or angry when I ask clarifying questions, ie "How do you know this person?" "What did they look like?" "Is there any smoke/fire/fluid coming from your vehicle?" However, I am always asking so I can help. Contrary to common belief, it is not my goal to frustrate my caller.

ilovegeorgebush5 karma

Is it wrong to call 911 in case of a fender bender where no one is hurt? It's not a big emergency, but how else would I get in touch with the police?

TenaMae4 karma

Absolutely ok. Make sure to double check that no one is injured and there are no smoke/fire/fluids from either vehicle. Pull to the shoulder, turn on hazards, and start exchanging info. It makes the officer's job easier.

Maldevinine5 karma

What's the software you use like? Does it give suggestions/a script for the conversations?

In the US, does 911 only handle police or does it cover other emergency services as well? If it does, what other services?

Are the incoming calls screened geographically (i.e. you only get calls from your own city) or do you get calls from a much wider area?

TenaMae6 karma

We do have a computer program that follows our guidlines to ensure we ask the required questions. That is for medical calls. Some jurisdictions have programs for fire calls and police calls too.

I send for fire, ambulance and police. Every jurisdiction is organized differently. In mine, I take a call, process it, title it appropriately and decide what is needed (ambulance, officer, fire dept).

I cover a pretty large jurisdiction. Sometimes we get calls in bordering jurisdictions. If it is extremely urgent, house fire, cardiac arrest, shooting etc, I can send my units to help in a halo area, then pass the info to the proper jurisdiction. That way help is started instead of the person in need of help being transferred and on hold.

jeffsnotfaking5 karma

Just wanted to start by saying hello, and thank you for what you do! I have a few questions if you don't mind..

  1. Why do you refuse to see "The Call"?

  2. Are there any frequent callers that know you by name?

  3. What do you do between calls? Are you allowed to browse the internet?

Thank you!

TenaMae2 karma

I refuse to see "The Call" because I think it is going to give people a false image of what I do.

Especially the whole hunting down a serial killer thing. Nope.

We usually don't give out our names at my center. We give out operator numbers... some do ask for me by number.

I answered somewhere in her. We aren't allowed to have personal phones or computers, and there is restricted internet access on the work console. I usually draw, read or crochet. Exciting!

gsuberland5 karma

If you could change one thing about the way your department was managed, or the way funding was allocated, what would it be?

TenaMae9 karma

Haha. This is touchy.

I think my coworkers and I are vastly under-appreciated by our administration. That being said, a raise would be nice, but maybe the ability to take a little more time off would be nicer.

Everline5 karma

Which 911 application are you using?

TenaMae3 karma

Meaning? CAD? ProQA?

iscrulz5 karma

Do you ever get tired and say um no this is 9-1-2? Then go back to sleep

TenaMae30 karma

Haha. No I would get written up or fired.

I have been woken up at home by a phone call and answered, "This is 911 what is the address of the emergency?"

NDK14 karma

What was the biggest waste of time call you have got?

TenaMae13 karma

Once had a prank call saying a teen girl had just had a baby and now was unconscious and not breathing. Units got there and it was a vacant house.

vinylly4 karma

What experiences are require to get this job?

TenaMae8 karma

I would say customer service. Sounds weird, but hear me out. People call when they are angry and scared. So, naturally, they take it out on me (I get called every name in the book). My job is to calm them down and get any and all information I can to get them the help they need quickly and efficiently.

I also went through 6 months of a textbook based academy and another 3 months of side by side live call training. (After I was hired)

The_Cyclist4 karma

How often do you get "butt-dialed"?

TenaMae9 karma

I would say 1/5 calls is a butt dial.

maestro20054 karma

Follow up: If you're setting up a business app to dial a phone, and you tell it to dial 9 for an outside line when that's not actually needed, then tell it to dial 1 for long distance when that's automatically added, the phone will dial 911 when you try to make a call. Have you ever received one of these?

TenaMae6 karma

All the time. Just stay on the line and tells us it was a mistake.

Some people actually deny and debate with me that they didn't call. So, I just send an officer to check the location.

gkiltz4 karma

What' was the strangest call you ever took? What REALLY happened??

TenaMae15 karma

Ooo. That is a tough one. One woman insisted her neighbor was breaking into her basement every day....stuff was moved, food was missing, doors were unlocked. Turns out she had a squatter.

colonelchurro4 karma

I've been looking into being a 911 dispatcher. Is there anything I can do to prep myself to better my chances/get me ready for the job?

TenaMae15 karma

Hm. Typing. Lives literally depend on how fast I type. (Don't ask me my WPM, I have no idea). Customer service skills, and really good hearing are a must.

And you have to be cool. We only like cool coworkers.

PrincessMads4 karma

I work at a university suicide hotline and would love to hear about your strategies for suicidal callers to see if there is anything useful we can add to our training.

1) What are your strategies for handling suicidal callers? 2) If you're trying to trace a call, what is useful information to have when trying to figure out where they are? 3) What strategies do you use to keep somebody on the phone until help arrives? 4) How do calls with suicidal people compare to the rest of your emergency calls in intensity? 5) Since you are a woman, do you ever get masturbator calls? I've definitely gotten them before and it can be difficult to figure out what's going on.

TenaMae12 karma

1) What are your strategies for handling suicidal callers? This can vary, depending on the caller. I usually try to find something in common. Once I talked with a guy about lacrosse for 30 min until we could figure out where he is. Validate them. When they tell you why they are contemplating suicide, tell them "wow, that is really tough. [So and so] I am really glad you called to talk to me, though."

2) If you're trying to trace a call, what is useful information to have when trying to figure out where they are? If it is a cell phone, their number and carrier. If they will give it, their full name. Try to keep them on the line and transfer to 911. Sometimes we cand piing the cell phone during the call.

3) What strategies do you use to keep somebody on the phone until help arrives? Talk about anything. They will usually volunteer this info. Why they're upset, where they go to school, their hobbies. The other week I spent ten minutes talking about the Ravens' roster and Ozzie Newsome's strategy.

4) How do calls with suicidal people compare to the rest of your emergency calls in intensity? I have had some take their lives on thee phone. That is a complete mind fuck. But some people cannot be helped. I would say it depends on how serious the person is. Some people just want to be seen. Others are legit depressed.

5) Since you are a woman, do you ever get masturbator calls? I've definitely gotten them before and it can be difficult to figure out what's going on. All the time. I remind them I am recording the call. And an officer is fully aware of what they've said when he/she goes out. One guy kept calling and telling female operators what he wanted to do to us. Then he got my coworker, we'll call him Xavier...guy was mad that he wasn't a chick. Stopped calling. Perverts are fickle.

ThoughtPrisoner4 karma

Is it useful for you guys if people report where suspects being chased by police are going? Or would it take too long for a message ('the man on the scooter took a LEFT on X street') to get to the specific police cars chasing him anyway?

TenaMae3 karma

If you have a description of a suspect and a direction of travel it is always helpful and appreciated!

spittingwisdom4 karma

My son accidentally called 911 without me knowing once. I got a knock on the door and an officer was standing outside saying that someone called 911. When my son admitted it and I told the officer that everything was OK, he just lingered there for a moment. Was he trying to decide if I was being held hostage or something?

TenaMae12 karma

Every once and a while a child will call because of a domestic issue... the officer might have been surveying the situation just to feel out if anything was off.

No offense. Unfortunately it happens a lot.

OR he might have wanted you to invite him in for some hot cocoa. PoPos love the shit outta some hot cocoa.

Jfersisthecatsmeow4 karma

My local 911 center is offering a tour of the place at the end of the month. Is this a good field trip for my almost 4 year old or should we just skip it.

TenaMae5 karma

It is a great idea to go. It is a great opportunity to start teaching your kid about calling 911, learning your address, etc. As far as appropriateness, I doubt they will let you see/hear any calls too intense.

firefighter36993 karma

I wanted to offer my sincerest thanks to you for what you do. I am a firefighter for a small community and we rely heavily upon our dispatchers. Thank you so much for all of your help and making our jobs safer and more productive.

TenaMae3 karma

You are welcome, and thank you!

herrdunphy3 karma

How do you deal with callers who don't speak English? There has to be some, right? Do you have co-dispatchers who speak other languages and you connect the callers to them?

TenaMae8 karma

Hablo espanol.

However, we use a language line service. We can request any language. In a pinch, should our language line not work, I can translate Spanish for myself. Otherwise, we get a location and whatever details we can and send help. A lot if times there is a child at the location who speaks English, and the caller will put them on the phone.

RiverNorth3 karma

Just curious, seeing as that all of those tests and interviews were required pre-hire, what is your education level? High school? Bachelors? Thanks for your service to this great nation, regardless of where you work!

TenaMae7 karma

Degree in biochem and working on a degree in social psych. In my jurisdiction, however, only a GED is required. I just get paid more.

And to answer what your next question will likely be, "Why aren't you using your degree?"

The job market is limited, and I want job security. I want to work in crime lab, but I cannot until my dad retires. He's kind of the boss over there.

huneybunny3 karma

My friend had a panic attack and called 911, is this standard practice? Like, is it something that is legitimate and that you take seriously or do you view that as a waste of resources? Same goes for being too intoxicated (throwing up for an extended period or not responding)?

TenaMae4 karma

Panic attacks are difficult. Of course call 911. There is such a wide range of symptoms, some people even become suicidal. In this case, we would send an ambulance and an officer for the medic's safety juuuust in case.

Same goes for too much alcohol. We treat it as an overdose/alcohol poisoning, we get those a lot for colleges.

maestro20053 karma

Here's a situation that happened many years ago that I think could have been handled better:

My dad was playing softball in a company league, and suffered a minor back injury. It was clear that there was no spinal cord injury or anything serious like that, but he was in enough pain that he couldn't bend at the waist to fit in a car and be driven to the hospital (it turned out to be a pinched nerve caused by muscles seizing up). With no other option, I called 911 for an ambulance. This was at a park in the middle of a neighborhood, and there were hundreds of people around, so at my dad's request, I told the dispatcher to please not have the sirens running and create a scene. If that means the ambulance arrives a few minutes later, that's fine, he's not dying.

5 minutes later, a damn fire truck showed up, sirens blaring, creating a massive scene. Of course they were unable to help in any way since all he needed was a stretcher and some industrial-strength muscle relaxers, so we waited another 3 minutes (now surrounded by people... exactly what we didn't want) for an ambulance.

What exactly should I have said to that dispatcher in order to get them to just send an ambulance, immediately but with no sirens? Or are the sirens something you can't opt out of? I get that the fire department is often sent for injuries if they can arrive quicker, but I thought I made it clear that they wouldn't be able to help. It's like there needs to be something between 911 and non-emergency.

TenaMae5 karma

That would have been a Delta call off of the traumatic injury card on the EMD cardset... which we take seriously, to err on the side of caution. You could have said "please just one ambulance and no sirens"...but every dispatch center has rules. Across the board for that type of call they may be required to send an engine. Just to clarify, ambulances ARE part of the fire department.. more often than not there is at least one EMT trained individual in an engine, and all are certified first responders. They send more than one piece of equipment for man power and coverage. As far as the sirens go.. that is the drivers' call.. sometimes they just like making noise and seeing the pretty lights.

JaykobC3 karma

I have an artesian well in my backyard and the pressure is lousy, any ideas how I'd fix that?

Also, when you tell someone that their call is not an emergency, do they get belligerent? And have you ever been pranked?

TenaMae6 karma

Haha. Sir, you are going to have to call a plumber.

People get belligerent all the time, even when I am trying to help.

And kids prank call way too much.

BHaaks3 karma

Have you watched the movie "The Call"? How does it compare to your work experience? Also, what's the strangest emergency you've responded to?

TenaMae7 karma

I refuse to see it.

On a ride along (we do those) the officer and I showed up to a guy who was wandering Home Depot in clear plastic booty shorts, showing off his goods, and refusing to leave. Completely unapologetic and workin it something fierce.

natashacecilie3 karma


TenaMae3 karma

Our shifts are 8 hours, but I usually work 4 hrs overtime. We also get held mandatory a lot because of low staffing. So it varies between 8 hours-16hours.

In an 8 hour period we get a half hour lunch and 2 short breaks if call volume permits.

*edit: and I average about 1 call every 5 minutes. Out of those calls I send about 30 a shift.

LiquidFood3 karma

If you don't mind me asking, how much does it pay? Is it close to a regular 9 to 5 job or more then that?

TenaMae3 karma

Less than a teacher, more than an administrative assistant. :)

The pay could be better. But I work so much overtime I cushion my own check.

mookie223 karma

How long does it take to trace a location from a call?

TenaMae6 karma

Depends on your phone company. You know how when you call them and get put on hold a billion times? Happens to us when we call to get info.

fa533 karma

Do you think there is sufficient upward mobility to make it a career?

TenaMae5 karma

Yes and no. There are a lot of gov't cuts going on in my area, so promotions may be limited soon. But I have been promoted once already, and the raise was definitely helpful.

Heatednemz3 karma

Thank you for this AMA,
What I wanted to ask is what goes on between answering a call and dispatching various services? In other words , what is your workflow or procedure? Is there like a button you press or do you do it via your computer? or do you have another person directly informing the cops or fire services? Also, does the information come up on their screens with a brief description of what to expect?

TenaMae3 karma

Every jurisiction organizes it differently. Ours is split up into rooms. A basic call goes like this: I receive a call, get the location and pertinent info and route it to the dispatch rooms according to what service is needed (police for and officer, fire for ambulance or fire dept). While I am still talking to the caller, the police dispatcher or fire dispatcher is sending units. I usually reassure my callers "I have already sent for help, you are not delaying them by talking to me."

SolidCree3 karma

Is having Panic attacks part of the job? How often does it happen and to who?

TenaMae6 karma

If you have panic attacks you quickly learn in training that this job isn't for you, and you likely resign or get let go. Otherwise, when we have rough calls, our supervisors make us go take a walk to calm down.

[deleted]2 karma


TenaMae2 karma

My dad's boss suggested it (I explained somewhere in here) turns out he was right and I love it.

My driving force is my kid. Outside of that, I would say knowing that I make a difference, even if the call was for something seemingly minuscule.

wishiwasonmaui2 karma


TenaMae8 karma

On the way

precordial_thump1 karma

Are you a call taker and dispatcher? In NYC you're generally one or the other.

TenaMae2 karma

We start off trained in one, then cross train. We only work one room at a time. I am primarily trained in 911 and cross training in Police Dispatch. Some people are cross trained in only Fire and Police, not at all in 911.

SoldierJ221 karma

I have my final interview for this job on Monday with all the high ups... any tips you could give me to help make myself standout to the panel?

TenaMae3 karma

Think of a good customer service story you can share or a story about keeping your cool in a tough situation. The might ask some off the wall questions, just answer honestly. In my interview they asked, "Your photo is on the front page of the paper, what would the headline be?" My answer, "Christina is awesome."

SoldierJ221 karma

Haha that would make you stand out I suppose.

Thank you very much for the advice. I feel bad though because in the past few interviews I keep on drawing from experiences from my deployments and I am not sure if they want to keep on hearing about that. I kind of feel like a tool lol.

TenaMae1 karma

They love discipline, use it!

Mattj0071 karma

What is the most disturbing call you have received?

TenaMae1 karma

Baby in cardiac arrest. I explained the story in here somewhere.

kidwithheadphones1 karma

How many butt dials do you get in a day?

TenaMae2 karma

On an average shift, 1/5 calls. Volume depends on the day. But I'll guesstimate I take 20-25/shift.