Skip to main content

Experiencing CARE in Action: A Day in the Life of a Seattle 911 Dispatcher


What kind of person does it take to be an emergency telecommunicator day in, day out? That’s the question Watson Consoles’ National Sales Manager Arthur Thomas asked of his nephew, Tom, a veteran dispatcher and supervisor for City of Seattle’s emergency communications center. Arthur was invited to shadow a dispatch shift so he could see first-hand the kind of stamina and empathy needed to help people on their worst days. 

Seattle’s new 911 program, Community Assisted Response and Engagement (CARE), is different from most emergency call centers - they avoid using force and dispatch mental health professionals alongside police officers to calls that might involve emotional distress. During his “sit-along,” Arthur discovered that many of the calls received only needed a calm, empathetic person who could determine the level of response required. 

Tom toggles between three different stations: radios, scheduling, and the call center. At the radio station, there is the complexity of managing multiple calls from different precincts simultaneously. Tom's keen ear listens for crucial keywords like "HELP," ready to jump in at a moment's notice, showcasing the center's efficiency and readiness to respond to emergencies. 


Despite the slower pace of that morning, Arthur gained a deep appreciation for the endurance and resilience required to sit at a desk for eight to nine hours a day, handling emergencies with grace and precision. He was impressed by the dispatchers on shift – they were extremely focused and calm under pressure.

Through this experience, one call stood out. A call-taker, Adam, handled a report of someone sleeping in an intersection. Adam's ability to navigate through thick accents and complex situations with compassion and professionalism was impressive. This highlighted the traits of 911 operators and the skill sets required to handle chaos and connect with people in distress.

When discussing the emotional toll of the job, Tom shared about the challenges of leaving work at the door. He said that while some days are harder than others, his wife's support helps him process difficult calls, especially those involving children.

What a privilege it was to witness the world of emergency telecommunicators; they are remarkable individuals who dedicate their careers to helping others in their darkest moments. It reinforced the idea that behind every emergency call is a person driven by compassion and a desire to make a difference. That’s why Watson Consoles works hard to listen to our customers’ feedback about our products. We build it better so they can do their jobs more efficiently and comfortably.

To show our gratitude, we would like to offer a gift to 911 dispatchers – just fill out the linked form to receive your telecommunicator badge.


Stay Connected with Watson

Receive more articles like this right to your inbox.