On the record: Dispatchers face tough job

10:31 PM, May 8, 2013   |    comments
Dispatchers take calls at the Blount County 911 Center
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Richee Kidd remembers an incident many years ago, during her first few years as a 911 dispatcher. The Blount County 911 supervisor said she took a call that ended up on national television.

"We had an incident at one of our schools, and of course, I was the one that came across Dateline. You hear it and you're like, 'Oh my gosh, I really sound like that?'"

Its a chance anyone in her profession takes with every call.

"You have to really remember that this job is recorded, that at any point in time it can be pulled for court purposes, media, any kind of thing like that," she said.

A Cleveland-based dispatcher has come under fire this week after he took a call from a frantic woman who said she had been kidnapped a decade ago. Amanda Berry had just escaped and ran across the street to use a neighbor's phone to call 911.

That recording has been played by numerous news outlets and become the subject of criticism for what some call a lack of sensitivity.

Hear recording and read transcript of 911 call

"I think he got hung up on where she was at... the different address locations, and that's easy to do as a dispatcher," Kidd said, after listening to the 911 recording.

"You have to make her feel like she's important, that what she's calling you about you understand, and that you're going to send somebody there just as quick as possible, because that was her concern. You know, are they on their way?"

Although Kidd said the Ohio dispatcher could have been more empathetic, she didn't find anything wrong with the questions he asked.

"He's probably [taken] millions of calls. You can get in that complacency, you just can't do that in our line of work."

At the Blount County 911 Center, Kidd explained how calming a panicked caller is sometimes the only way to get critical information.

"Trying to calm them down, sooth them, let them know were here to help them," she said. "We've got to calm you down so we can get the information to help you."

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