Phoenix Fire Department dispatcher Brooklin Spychalski answered an emergency call about a person who had chest pains and pulled over in a Circle K parking lot on April 13, 2017.
The Phoenix Fire Department’s week to honor dispatchers coincided with the week they moved from a smaller dispatch facility to the main firefighter training center on Lower Buckeye Road.
The week is about honoring what dispatchers do and improving morale around the office. The new digs go a long way in that.
The new dispatch room is about four times larger than the previous facility, which Phoenix fire Capt. Reda Riddle-Bigler said keeps the room quieter. Dispatchers are better able to focus and don’t hear calls from other units.
Dispatcher Brooklin Spychalski called the new equipment a perk.
“I just appreciate how they’ve tried to renovate it and keep up-to-date with more modern equipment,” she said.
The new room is split into different segments for different responsibilities, including redirecting calls to the proper channels — whether it’s police, fire or ambulance assistance — and organizing which firetruck is dispatched.
“They’re the key piece and the start to the emergency response system,” Riddle-Bigler said.
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The dispatcher’s priority while routing emergency personnel is to help the person on the line remain calm. When callers are frantic, it makes it difficult to get crucial information.
Spychalski called this the most stressful part of her job, particularly when children are involved. She tries to go low volume when they go high.
“I know that staying calm and quiet on my end helps them remain calm and quiet,” she said. “If I start to get excited as well, then that just is going to add to their excitement.”
The first question she asks isn’t about the nature of the phone call — she asks for the caller’s location. This way, they can start a truck immediately.
“Getting the truck started is a priority over everything else,” Spychalski said.
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Once the call is done, dispatchers sometimes get what Riddle-Bigler called “closure” — they check in on how the case turned out. Spychalski said she doesn’t follow up often — after seven and a half years, she’s a little more “detached” and thinks she does it a couple times a month in bigger cases.
“I do appreciate the fact that the units, if we do ask them, they will let us know what happened. … Especially with children, you want to know what happens,” she said.
Even after all these years, though, Spychalski appreciates the recognition that National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week brings.
“It helps to know that you’re appreciated, y’know,” she said. “Even though we don’t need to be told that on a regular basis, it helps. … It keeps you motivated too, to know like, ‘Oh, I’m really making a difference.’ ”
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