PERA Member Spotlight: A Day in the Life of a 9-1-1 Dispatcher

If you have an emergency in Boulder County, there's a good chance you'll end up with Chris Baker on the other end of the line. Chris is a 9-1-1 dispatcher for the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO). As part of a team of 22 dispatchers, he answers both 9-1-1 and non-emergency calls, handling dispatch for numerous fire, protection, and emergency medical agencies throughout the county.

Chris started with the Sheriff’s Office in 2012, and works a rotating schedule of 12-hour overnight shifts up to four days a wek.  During a typical work week, he rotates through the following four stations:

  • Law Dispatch: Dispatching police officers to calls
  • Fire Dispatch: Dispatching fire departments to medical or fire calls
  • Data Dispatch: Running and clearing driver licenses and license plates for traffic violations
  • Call Taker: Answering emergency and non-emergency calls

"Weekend nights can get pretty busy, but it usually dies down around midnight, and can become super slow as we enter the early morning. However, with a job like this, anything can happen at any time, so things can get hectic at any point during a shift," says Chris.

In 2015, the BCSO Communications Center handled 108,417 incoming phone calls, which averages out to about 297 calls per day. Since the area serviced by this office spans 752 square miles, dispatchers receive calls from both suburban and rural areas. 

According to Chris, "Being in Boulder County, we have a lot of rural area...so, I've dealt with calls involving domesticated and wild animals alike. A wild animal in someone’s home or on someone’s property can make for an interesting call, and I'm always pretty surprised when we get the occasional bear who's wandered into a neighborhood."

While working in dispatch has its fair share of excitement, it’s not always hectic. "Contrary to what people may see on television or in movies, we don't deal with stressful call after stressful call. Although it can be high stress at times [side note: like the time Chris had to help deliver a baby over the phone], we don’t routinely deal with theatrical situations. This is truly a job of customer service, and although we'll deal with our fair share of intense calls, many times we're simply helping to serve the public with their needs and requests," explains Chris.

Even after five years on the job, Chris still loves his work. "I truly enjoy what I do, and look forward to going to work. The most rewarding part of my job, although I know it's cliché, is that I get to help people. I'm a real people person, so knowing that I can provide assistance in a stressful situation makes me happy."

 For another insider look at the life of a 9-1-1 dispatcher in Boulder County, check out this article from the Daily Camera.

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