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Study analyzes top stressors for 911 dispatchers

911 dispatcher

Photo: HHLtDave5/iStockphoto

Montreal – Emergency dispatchers who work at 911 call centers face a variety of physical and mental challenges in a high-stress environment, according to a study conducted by scientific research organization IRSST.

Researchers surveyed 911 managers, trainers and call center agents about on-the-job challenges and support systems. The main challenges confronted by dispatchers include:

  • Difficulty taking control of the call and getting information from the caller
  • The risk of failing to detect an urgent situation, or of mobilizing police officers for no good reason
  • The risk of conflict with a dissatisfied caller
  • The stress of holding a lengthy conversation with a caller who threatens to commit suicide
  • The stress of sustained attentiveness and uncertainty when the agent has to serve as an intermediary between a caller and the police during a criminal act
  • Difficulty controlling one’s emotions when faced with a dramatic emergency situation or an arrogant caller

Previous research has linked cognitive or emotional strain with physical problems such as pain in the neck, shoulders and lower back. Researchers recommend the creation of a cooperative training network, noting that it could lead to “better recognition of professional competencies” and contribute “to the prevention of occupational health problems.”