Worst Thing I Ever Heard...

I have had people ask me many times "what is the worst thing you have ever heard as a dispatcher?". I usually pause for a moment, and then give them some quick story that is just horrifying enough that they won't be asking me that question anymore, but not so horrifying that I don't have to think about it much myself. That may be unkind of me, but I haven't found any graceful way of answering that question.

The truth is the worst thing I ever heard when I was a dispatcher was silence. Silence after hearing a gun shot over the telephone, and you strain to hear if the caller is still breathing. Silence when you ask an Officer for his status 3 times and he doesn't answer. Silence while you are on the phone with a child, who is hiding in the closet while her drunk dad is beating her mom, and suddenly all the screaming and banging in the background stops. Silence when everyone in the room and on the road stops their transmissions after hearing something suspicious over the radio. Silence after you have been talking to a suicidal caller for the past 20 minutes trying to get them to tell you where they are and you realize that all those pain killers must have kicked in. Silence after an officers badge number gets signed off the air for the last time, and you know he won't be going home to his family.

The worst silence is after something so bad just happened, that you can't find words or tears to express the devastating emotions you are experiencing. No one can, the silence won't break, and time seems to have stopped.
3grnowl 3grnowl
13 Responses May 17, 2012

retired paramedic, silence when you reach a patient too late

I know that quiet.... I had an unusual job too... peace peace

Silence would definately trump mine. The first one I was going to offer was a young man who tried to off himself by drinking a bottle of Clorox then changed his mind and called 911. His retching was off the charts! He lived but lost most of his stomach. The 2nd one, more recently was a young girl -7 yrs of age - who had arrived home with her parents to find her teenage sister hanging in the garage. I've heard many hysterical people over the years, but this one was particurly horrible. I had to leave the Comm center to gather myself.

ahhhm you just made me feel bad for cops....

Well said, so true.

This is exactly how I respond to the question. I've only felt these emotions and never saw them in writing. You have perfectly expressed the worst part of this job.

The worst thing I've ever heard is never ending screaming. The mother who let her ********* boyfriend shake her baby to death and then called 911on her cell phone and wouldn't tell me where she was. She just screamed. That sucked. I can't help you if I don't know where you are. Listening to someone scream and being powerless, knowing you can't help them is the worst.

i am greatly thinking about becoming a 911 dispatcher and want to know how to get into it and what its like. reading this broke my heart.. i tink the only way i would be able to go to work everyday is thinking about all the lives you are saving. yes, you will and have already had horrible incidenses but all the lives you save must be worth it. you are one of the real heros.

OMG. Silence really is deadly. I'm sorry that you have experienced this in your work. My wife has experienced this kind of silence but in a different way where paramedics bring someone in to the hospital and they die on their way from ER to the OR.

Having worked in comm-centers, while only dealing with non-priority type of calls, I have had to pass along priority calls for service to the local ECC. And yes, I can understand how that silence is so often the worst thing to hear.<br />
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I will remember this on my nest run with my red trucks - always keep dispatch informed and updated.

i'm glad ppl will still do the job. i did it for 13 years and burned out. best wishes.

wow.... great story, I mean very sad but it made me tear up a little and I was very into it. I really wanted to be a 911 dispatcher but... I dont know. Thats really awesome that you can do that and then share your story. It takes a lot of courage :) <br />
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your amazing

I know the feeling....I've been on the other side.....thanks for caring so much about us..the ones out in the field.....