Last week our “Hometown Hero” was Shane Rowe. I listed some of his occupations and achievements, but I did not get to everything. The article is meant to be a short glimpse into who the men and women are who serve our community and a little about their background. One thing that I was forced to omit was the time Shane and I spent together when I worked at Fort Smith EMS as a dispatcher and he worked as my partner for extra money on his days off from his full time job. Being a dispatcher is easily one of the worst jobs I have ever held partially because I was not very good at it.
I have been a firefighter on the Greenwood City Fire Department for the last 10 years and I have been a medical responder for the last eight years so I have been on both sides of the radio. It is so easy to be critical of dispatchers especially when only hear them over the radio you never see them. I often thought to myself “what are they doing having a contest to see how many marbles they can hold in their mouths and still talk?”.
I was wrong and I was taught a lesson over the course of two years that I will never forget. I was interested in emergency services and being a dispatcher is a common starting point for many medics. I was hired on and sent to dispatcher class; I have been to many classes for fire and medical service so I thought I knew what I was in for, I did not.
I walked into class on my first day and there was soft rock playing and a countdown clock projected on a screen. When the clock hit 0 class started. The instructor was a thin balding man with a mustache and a pleasant smile that spoke with a kind voice. After filling out paperwork he began the class with a question, “how many of you here think being a dispatcher is about saving lives?”. I heard this, I knew it was a trap but no one was raising their hands. I know that teacher need examples so I alone raised my hand and then this nice man with the kind smile whipped his head around, looked me in the eyes and yelled “MY GOAL OVER THE NEXT THREE DAYS IS TO DISABUSE YOU OF THAT NOTION!”. By the end of the course I had a mild form of PTSD; I could hear the instructor say “ring ring ring” in my sleep, which was his way of starting a scenario where you would eventually make a mistake and be verbally beaten for it. It is a tough job and he was preparing us for the seriousness of it so It understandable that he would have high standards for his students.
After training was over I started doing the real thing and it was even more intense. You are dealing with life and death on a daily basis. You stare at 10 monitors for 12 hours straight and take calls, speak to paramedics, first responders, firemen, police dispatchers and answer calls from people with alert necklaces when the fall or need help.
Like I said I was an awful dispatcher; I have overcome a lot when it comes to my ADD and Dyslexia, but the job of a dispatcher was more than I could handle. Thanks to Earl “Squirrel” Kleese, Johnny Rozel, Becky O’ Bar, Scott Schmitt and Leigh Ann Lopez for keeping me out of trouble. Thank God for dispatchers and the work they do.