From lost keys to medical or security emergencies, there is one constant; the first voice you hear when you call for help. The Emergency Communications Center is the first line of response at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, but the emergency dispatchers are more than just voices behind a phone. They are a team of diverse individuals.
“Being a dispatcher you almost have to be an outgoing person, be direct and be able to give orders,” said Robert Greene, dispatch project manager contracted with The Greater Richmond ARC, on DSCR. “But, you also have to have some compassion. Every person responds to a situation differently and you need to be able to play off of the caller with the appropriate type of response to ease the caller and handle the emergency.”
ECC personnel handles many of the communication processes at DSCR from routing units to incidents on site and directing incoming emergency and non-emergency calls to supporting the police with vehicle background checks and monitoring security surveillance systems and alarms.
“I’m a 9-1-1 dispatcher on base which means a lot of different things,” said Amber Doylan, emergency dispatcher. “We help people find contacts that they are needed to fit their situations, we take care of building and fire alarms, HAZMAT, police, and illegal issues or anything else that gets called in. We have about six different systems that we have to monitor.”
From one screen to another, Doylan blends creativity and compassion in both her personal life as a wife, a 9-1-1 dispatcher and in a virtual world as member of an online community.
Dolyan explained that she and her husband, Patrick, take care of her blind father-in-law, who was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa early in his life and lost his sight completely in his 40s.
Although balancing the needs of a blind family member may be challenging, Doylan explained that she enjoys knowing that what she does to help makes a difference someone.
“I’ve always been a nurturing person,” she said. “I taught college for five years, so I always love roles where I’m helping someone.”
Prior to joining the ECC, she taught graphic art courses at a technical institution as an adjunct professor. Doylan’s degree was in video game and graphic design and stemmed from her personal passion of gaming.
“I love gaming,” said Doylan. “It’s my stress release. There are probably four or five series that I’m a big fan of and will buy any of their games.”
In one of her online communities, Doylan said “I’m actually the officer that deals with all the complaints,” said Doylan. “If anyone in the online community has any issues they can ask me about the situation and I will take it to the other officers and figure out a solution, so I guess even there I’m the motherly figure.”
Her passion for gaming has enhanced her ability to operate as a dispatcher in unique ways.
“When you are designing things you have to keep an open mind,” she said. “You have to be ready for anything, because things can change at a moment’s notice. Something might not work like you anticipated it would, so you have to be quick to change your mind and deal with the situation. When it comes to dispatch, you can have someone call in for one reason and then add new information and now you’re dealing with an emergency and you have to get people out of the area.”
Doylen draws inspiration for her work from her passion in gaming and family, but Michael Nelson, a fellow emergency dispatcher, finds his inspiration in sports.
“I’ve always had a love for sports,” said Nelson. “I watch collegiate and professional sports, mainly football, basketball and baseball on occasion.”
Complementing the love of the game, Nelson explained that two years ago a neighbor introduced him to sports memorabilia shows where collectors go to obtain new signatures and he has been enthralled ever since.
“It’s like Pokémon where you have to collect them all,” said Nelson. “I have anywhere from 600 to 1,000 signatures on jerseys, miniature helmets, footballs and baseballs.”
One of the teams that Nelson follows is Duke University. Nelson explained that after leaving the Army after serving for several years, he had the opportunity to meet Duke’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
“I really connected with him knowing he had a similar military structure and background as myself,” said Nelson, who served as a water treatment specialist. “It was actually breathtaking to meet and talk to a childhood hero. It’s inspiring to see how he mentors young kids into men and how his military career can be seen reflected in his coaching career.”
Following Krzyzewski’s example, Nelson has begun merging his passion for sports with his desire for a career in public relations for a sports team.
Nelson’s passion for sports and his military background blends with his formal education to enrich his abilities as a dispatcher.
“The posture under pressure has helped me the most,” said Nelson. “When things get heated, you have to be quick on your feet and you can’t hesitate, because you might have someone’s life in your hands and you have to get these guys out within a moment’s notice, so you can’t stumble and fumble. We need to be professionals.”