The Wrap-Up

After 39 years in public safety communications and 20 years sitting at a console answering 9-1-1 calls and coordinating police, fire and EMS field units by radio, I’m really retiring. I won’t be adding new material to this Web site or even tending to it. But it will remain for awhile as a potential reference. I’ll be watching my email, but replies will be “iffy.” My eternal thanks to Alan Burton for sharing so much information and inspiration, and for his confidence in my abilities, both for dispatching and writing. He is still my hero.

For those continuing along in the profession, be proud of what you do. The best 9-1-1 calls I’ve ever heard are the ones that made the personal connection. Use your name and the “I” word. Recognize your potential impact on each and every person you contact, either at the front counter or on the telephone or radio.Don’t try to save the entire world. Just do one good thing for one person during each shift. It makes an impact.

Take care of yourself. Dispatching is tremendously stressful, and a long career can take a toll in many different physical and emotional ways. Develop a team of supporters. Move towards “the rocks,” the people who give you energy, and move away from those who take energy away.

Prioritize your time—you’ve heard it before: family, friends, dreams and goals first, and only then your job. The ultimate goal is: no regrets.

Find a hero, pick out his/her strengths and strive to follow that person’s example. Identify a mentor who will support and guide you, and help you improve.

In turn, be someone else’s hero. Put out your hand to pull a colleague up. Move another person up the ladder ahead of you. Share your knowledge and experience, either individually or with a group. Hopefully I have done some of this, both in-person and through my writings about the profession.


I started as a civilian fire dispatcher in 1976 at Berkeley (CA), (in the first group of civilians (previously firefighters. I moved to the city’s first combined police-fire civilian (previously sworn officers) comm center in 1984  as a Public Safety Dispatcher (PSD). I retired  as a Sr. PSD in 1999 to write and edit the printed edition of Dispatch Monthly, and later the on-line edition, Concurently, I was a sworn Berkeley Police Reserve officer (#692)  starting in 1974. For 41 years it gave me a valuable double-perspective on dispatching, to hear both sides of the radio, learn geography and what was happening on the street.

That’s really it. The future is up to you. Learn, be involved, take control. There are a tremendous number of critical projects in-progress right now within public safety communications. They will affect thousands of lives for decades. it’s an exciting and dynamic time. But it takes participation by those in the industry—those who know it best—to make it successful. Join APCO and NENA, participate on a committee. Contribute feedback. Help make the future better. It’s entirely in your hands. — Gary Allen

Source: 911 Dispatch

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