MISSOULA – One of the first telephone numbers we learn as kids is 9-1-1 where help is waiting on the other end of the line.
But it takes nerves of steel to be on the front line of emergencies. This edition of Salute the Badge features a Missoula County dispatcher who is always just three digits away.
“You never know what you’re going to get. One minute you could be on the phone with a person who needs help talking to someone and the next could be a CPR call or somebody’s house is on fire,” said JD Sessions as he prepared for his shift in the basement of the Missoula County Courthouse.
In high school he was in the Cadet program and along with his dispatcher duties now, he’s also a firefighter for the East Missoula fire department and he’s a reserve deputy for the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office,
He’s pretty even-keeled. He has to be in this business where he is driven to protect and serve. “You get that adrenaline but you know you need to stay calm because on the other end somebody else might not be so calm to you need to keep them calm also.
Calls to dispatch can range from a lost cat to a shootout on the highway and each caller is treated with dignity as dispatchers coordinate the response. They don’t always know the outcome of the calls they get but after each one, they take a breath and get ready to do it all over again.
There is a team spirit in the 9-1-1 center where the stakes can be high when you’re on the front lines of what is often a life and death situation.
“It’s not a job for everyone. You need to be a quick thinker and be able to handle high stress and call volume and being able to think on your feet. You’re trained but sometimes you have to use your own instincts and judgment to know how to best help the caller or the patient,” Sessions said.
He told MTN News that calls involving law enforcement officers are the most stressful since they form a bond with the men and women on the streets, whether in person or just over the radio.