Dane County 911 Dispatchers: The FIRST First Responders

by Safety Connection

When is the last time you thanked a 911 dispatcher? Probably not many of us have, because often when people call 911 they are experiencing one of the worst moments of their lives. Many first responders receive thank yous from residents as they are out in the community, but dispatchers sit at a desk behind a computer screen as they conduct their important business.

They’re essentially the first of the first responders and will stay on the line with you until police, fire, or EMTs can arrive. Dispatchers are trained in lifesaving medical procedures and can talk someone through delivering a baby and surviving cardiac arrest.

Did you know that your chance of surviving cardiac arrest decreases 10% each minute before help arrives?

Dispatchers work with police, fire, ambulance, animal control and parking and are trained to refer to other agencies regarding restraining orders and other civil issues. They are experts in asking the pertinent questions and directing the call to the agency.

Next time you consider calling 911, ask yourself “is this an emergency?” If you’re having a dispute with a neighbor, who won’t stop raking his leaves in your yard, that is not an emergency. If you saw something you don’t think constitutes an emergency, but someone should know, put the local non-emergency number into your contacts so it is readily available. In Madison, that number is 608-255-2345 (Fitchburg PD non-emergency is 608-270-4300 and Middleton PD non-emergency is 608-824-7300).

But if you see something that might qualify as an emergency, go ahead and call 911. You don’t have to think too hard about it. If it appears someone might be having a drug overdose, a medical emergency, or might be breaking into the house across the street, etc, dial 911 right away.

These are the questions you are likely to hear first:

  • What is the address of the emergency?
  • What is your cell phone number (in case you get cut off)?
  • What are you reporting?
  • What can you tell me? Let’s fill in the gaps…physical description, time, threat level, etc

Dispatchers are trained to screen calls. If you see something suspicious, call in and the dispatcher will be able to help discern if help is needed, and if so who is best to respond. Dispatchers have access to police records, time records, warrant information, and the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) system.

Next time you need to call 911, try to say thank you when possible! These first responders don’t hear it nearly enough, and their jobs are incredibly stressful.

Stay tuned for our next 911 post with more information and a way you can help your local 911 dispatchers.

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