Sleeping on the job is frowned upon in every field (unless the job is to be tested while sleeping) but in some careers, it could cost a life.
The general public relies on doctors, nurses, police officers and firemen to be alert while fulfilling their duties. Emergency dispatchers also fit into that category.
That's why a dispatcher in Montgomery County, Md., is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
When a woman called 911 because her husband was having trouble breathing and turning blue, an operator transferred her to a dispatcher responsible for sending an ambulance. Instead, she heard silence and then snoring on the other end.
After 38 seconds, the operator jumped back on the line and transferred the call to a second dispatcher who acted quickly to get an ambulance to the home, while instructing the caller what to do in the meantime.
Throughout the call, the other dispatcher's snores could still be heard, causing confusion as to whether the woman's husband was making the noise.
Fortunately, no adverse effects were reported as a result of the delay.
That dispatcher has been put on paid administrative leave while the matter is investigated.
It was noted that the dispatcher was 17 hours into a 24-hour shift.
While a 24-hour shift seems like a long time, it includes a 6-hour rest period and is not out of the ordinary for fire dispatching communications center. As an experienced firefighter, this dispatcher was familiar with that schedule.
While this is an isolated incident in that department, a similar incidents have happened before.
Instead of speaking harshly of such dispatchers, why not praise the ones who do their jobs well and make a positive difference?
I've sat with a Clay County dispatcher during a busy shift and saw how quickly she dealt with calls in a professional manner. She was looking out for the safety of those who called in, as well as the officers she was dispatching.
This particular dispatcher had several years of experience and commented that the dispatcher team is quite experienced overall.
That's a great asset, considering the communications center is the nervous system of law enforcement. They send messages to various departments while keeping their nerves in check, and trying to do the same for callers.
When dispatchers make mistakes, they make headlines.
When they do their job well and save lives, it goes largely unheralded.
It's time to change that trend and thank them for their role in keeping everyone safe.