The Invisible Heroes
print friendly textonly
The Invisible Heroes
My previous Council Corner highlighted the heroic efforts of some of the Police Officers and Firefighters of our City. Police and Fire personnel do an outstanding job serving their local residents and stand ever ready to assist their counterparts in the surrounding communities when called upon to do so.

When emergencies arise, they would not be addressed effectively if it were not for the personnel staffing the telephone and radios in the 911 dispatch centers. Police and Fire responders on the scene operate as a team, usually with onsite commanders who assess the situation and direct the team. The 911 dispatch operators are often by themselves and can sometimes be found operating several computer screens concurrently, while taking 911 calls concerning multiple issues.

When a call comes in it is not known whether or not it is an actual emergency or just a non-emergency question. The dispatchers must be quick to identify the issue, obtain the accurate information, and dispatch appropriate resources to the incident in the least amount of time. The dispatchers must keep a calm and professional demeanor while talking to someone on the verge of hysteria.

They must be experts in the art of communication and information gathering while being able to calm the caller. They must sort through the information gathered and select the appropriate course of action to aid emergency personnel responding to the emergency. Dispatchers need to relay sufficient and accurate information to the responding emergency personnel so the responders are aware of what to expect when arriving at the scene.

Working as part of a 24/7 team for our benefit, these 911 dispatchers are invisible to the public. At times, their own families or even friends are part of the event in which they instantly become immersed. Training and dedication to their responsibilities allows them to keep their emotions at bay, perform their job, and meet the trust that the community has given them.

If you have ever had the need to call 911, you might recall your heart pounding hard enough to jump out of your chest, your speech incoherent, and your thoughts unorganized. It is the dispatchers who must take the information you provide to them, separating out the emotion, and take appropriate action. In an emergency, you will be glad that the 911 dispatchers are doing a job that many of us could not do.

I would appreciate your comments on this and other issues by emailing me at

Council Corner

May 20, 2009
The Invisible Heroes

City Hall - 610 Foster City Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
(650) 286-3200