Considering that our planet is about 4.5 billion years old, a 50-year slice doesn’t seem all that significant—until one considers the amazing progress that can be achieved in such a timeframe. Take aviation for instance. On December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, N.C., Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first flight of a powered aircraft; the voyage lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet. By the early 1950s, jets were traversing the Atlantic Ocean on a regular basis, and soon after the first non-stop flight to Australia occurred.
Every year in June when I was a kid, my father and I shared the same joke. We did this on Father’s Day. I would say to him, “Must be nice … so, when is Kid’s Day?” And he would reply, “Every day is Kid’s Day.” Behind the humor was truth—he and my mother celebrated me and my brothers, and went above and beyond every day to give us a good start in life.
A tribute to our nation's telecomunicators
What got me thinking about that is National Telecommunicators Week, which is celebrated annually during the second week of April. It could be well argued that the nation’s 9-1-1 call-takers, dispatchers and supervisors—the unsung heroes of emergency response—deserve to be honored every week of the year.
The gravity of the job is tremendous, and so are the stresses. Those who call 9-1-1 are experiencing the worst day of their lives, and for some of them it will be the last day.
Lives are on the line and seconds count
Recently I did a Google search using the phrase, “most disturbing 9-1-1 calls.” The stories are as heartbreaking as they are eye-opening. The emotional toll on the telecommunicators who field such calls is staggering. But they don’t have the luxury of succumbing to those emotions. Remember that when a 9-1-1 call is placed, lives are on the line and seconds count. Ergo, telecommunicators must keep their wits about them at all times, lest they be unable to do what is needed. This involves dispatching the appropriate emergency response, of course, but also keeping the person on the other end of the line calm and, often, providing life-saving instructions to the caller, and vital information to first responders en route to enhance their situational awareness.