How 911 Dispatchers Can Handle Frightened Callers

Written by KOVA Corp

Working in a PSAP means you will more likely than not encounter frightened callers on a daily basis. It’s important to be able to keep these people calm when they call in so that you can get the needed information to be able to dispatch someone to them effectively, and give them the information they need to be able to get along until emergency personnel arrive on the scene. If you know what to do in an emergency situation, your caller will be a lot more at ease and ready to give you the details to assist you in dispatching. Here are the dos and don’ts of an emergency situation.


Make sure you keep calm

There are not many things scarier than being told there is something to be scared of. When you receive a call from a very afraid person, no matter what situation they’re in, do not allow yourself to get as worked up as they are. You are their 911 dispatcher and they’re relying on you. If you stay calm and keep your voice even, the person on the other side will begin to feel calmer too, instead of becoming even more anxious, as they would if you were to raise your voice as well.

Give them something to do

You might have an emergency that you’re unfamiliar with, or not be entirely sure what to do when the emergency strikes. Try to think of something to tell the person on the other side to do, even if it’s just maintaining breathing (you can also breathe with them). By doing this you’re taking their mind off the situation at hand and giving them way to keep calm, so they can give you information as the need arises, or help emergency responders when they get to the scene.


Make a situation seem less important

While you do need to stay clam to help the person on the line, you also don’t need to downplay the scenario if you don’t think it’s that important, or don’t think the person should be as scared and worried as they are. Treat each emergency with the same care and caution, but ensure you’re staying calm.

Tell people to calm down

This may seem silly, because you do want to calm the person on the line down. However, don’t just tell them to calm down. That does nothing except possibly escalate the emotions they’re already experiencing. Use your voice and your breathing, and give them steps that they can do while waiting, to calm them down instead. If you can’t think of something to say that won’t upset the caller more, here are some suggestions:

  • “Police/EMS/etc. will be there soon.”
  • “They will be able to take care of you and the emergency.”
  • Listen to their fears and what they’re saying; sometimes people in an emergency just need someone to listen while they’re waiting to get help.
  • Say, “I understand you’re upset. It is okay. I am here to help.”

Follow these tips and you’ll be saving the day like a superhero in no time. Have your own keep calm methods? Leave us a comment below!           

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