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IUPD dispatchers ready to help when you call 911

National 911 Education Month in April highlights work of dispatchers

Apr 17, 2024

Dispatcher Sydney McBride works in the IUPD Dispatch Communications Center at IU Bloomington. Photo by Alex Kumar, Indiana Univ... Dispatcher Sydney McBride works in the IUPD Dispatch Communications Center at IU Bloomington. Photo by Alex Kumar, Indiana University

When you call 911 in an emergency, the dispatcher on the phone is likely the first point of contact for getting the help you need. Indiana University Police Department’s Dispatch Communications Center in Bloomington receives 911 calls for all nine of the university’s campuses and is dedicated to serving the safety needs of all IU students, faculty and staff.

April is National 911 Education Month, and this week is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, so there’s no better time to highlight the work of IU’s dispatchers who are there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to help.

Watch a video about the dispatch center

“Any time you feel that there’s an immediate danger to you or someone else or if you see something suspicious or you feel it’s just not safe, call 911,” said Tricia Edwards, IUPD Dispatch Communications Center director, who has worked in dispatch communications for about 15 years. “In an emergency, we want individuals to call us so we can make sure they get the help they need.”

IUPD Dispatch Communications Center Director Tricia Edwards, right, talks with a dispatcher. Photo by Alex Kumar, Indiana Unive... IUPD Dispatch Communications Center Director Tricia Edwards, right, talks with a dispatcher. Photo by Alex Kumar, Indiana University

IUPD’s Dispatch Communications Center always has at least three dispatchers ready to answer calls from any IU campus in the state. In 2023, the center received 60,000 calls from across IU’s campuses. The dispatchers work as a team to support one another on calls as needed, and the first question they will ask if you call is “Where is your emergency?”

Once they know your location, they’ll ask what is going on and if the incident or issue is still in progress. If needed, they may advise that you find a safer location, and they’ll need to know whether someone is injured or needs medical help. Dispatchers may remain on the line until police officers, firefighters, emergency medical services or other assistance has arrived.

If you’re making a call to 911, you should stay as calm as you can and listen to the dispatcher on the other end of the line as they give directions or ask questions.

How can I reach a dispatcher for help?

Before dispatchers take any calls, they undergo a 12-week training period to learn about topics including telephone operation and interviewing, radio communications, multitasking, and prioritizing. Upon completion of their training, they are shadowed by a trained dispatcher before becoming a solo operator. They also take a separate course to become certified through the American Heart Association to provide telephone CPR.

Being on the other end of the line during an emergency requires maintaining calmness and managing stress while listening carefully to a caller, collecting information and relaying it to police officers or other safety officials.

“You never know what’s going to be on that next call,” Edwards said. “You prepare yourself for anything.”

Dispatchers are also trained to use breathing techniques during calls and give themselves time to mentally decompress after a stressful call. Edwards also checks in with dispatchers after calls to debrief and talk about how they felt, how they handled it and how they are feeling.

“In many cases, a dispatcher won’t know the outcome of a situation, and not knowing what happened or if the person was OK is hard because we care,” she said.

“A lot of dispatchers do this job because they are driven to help others. They have sympathy, empathy and passion for people. When you take a call, you can immediately help a person resolve whatever problem they are dealing with, and that’s rewarding.”

Author

IU Newsroom

Mary Keck

Communications Manager, Public Safety

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