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Episode 72: The dispatcher’s role in forming first responder situational awareness


Dispatch1Some of the least appreciated members of the emergency response team are the communications specialists (in some venues, termed dispatchers). How do I know this? First, I served as a communications specialist (my job title was dispatcher) early in my career and I was routinely subjected to criticism and ridicule from responders because the information I shared with them wasn’t always accurate – like I was giving them misinformation on purpose.

Second, in my situational awareness classes I often hear the same criticism of communications specialists I endured almost 30 years ago. I would like to offer some perspective on communications specialists and the critical role they can play in forming and maintaining situational awareness for responders.

Length: 26 minutes
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Unless you’ve ever served as a communications specialist/dispatcher, you likely have little understanding or appreciation for how difficult it can be to gather accurate, coherent information from a frantic caller who may be scared, confused and angry. For most callers to place a call to 9-1-1, the stress is significant and emotions are running amuck. It is very likely the situational awareness of the civilian caller is being impacted by many of the same barriers that can flaw a responder’s situational awareness – only worse because civilians are not used to dealing with emergencies.

Dispatch2 Dispatch3

Intro music
Safety Dance (1982)
Men Without Hats
GMC – Virgin Records

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Midwest Fire

Situational Awareness Matters






Situational Awareness Matters! website Firefighter Near Miss Reporting System

The mission of Situational Awareness Matters is simple: Help first responders see the bad things coming… in time to prevent bad outcomes.

Safety begins with SA! 

Share your comments on this article in the “Leave a Reply” box below. If you want to send me incident pictures, videos or have an idea you’d like me to research and write about, contact me. I really enjoy getting feedback and supportive messages from fellow first responders. It gives me the energy to work harder for you.



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