Dispatch serves as the intermediary between members of the community and the first responders who can help them. But merely being the messenger is not sufficient when it comes to calls where the caller is in danger and what is being communicated is a matter of life or death. Dispatchers can play an active role in ensuring the caller’s safety and that no further harm is done, especially while the caller is on the line.
This session’s speaker is Halcyon Frank, a full-time dispatcher, an active member of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), and founder of the Dispatch Lab. She developed the training curricula and trains for the Dispatch Lab and has presented at numerous dispatch conferences across the US.
Specifics of this course include:
- A primer on domestic violence, who the victims and abusers are, and the dynamics in the relationship.
- A rundown of the most important questions that dispatchers must ask when engaged in a domestic violence 911 call.
- The basic information to get outright and tips on how to get these if the caller isn’t able to provide it for some reason.
- The suspect’s location and description and the presence of weapons, other people, alcohol, or drugs that can provide responders with cues on how to best approach the situation.
- The safety of the caller, and whether the suspect knows that police is being contacted.
- Optional questions that can help provide a better picture of the history and level of violence.
- Red flags that may provide clues on the level of violence and danger the caller is in.
- Steps that can be incorporated by dispatch to provide better response by checking on the history of the calls, residence and the parties involved, being discerning of cultural difference, and careful with providing advice.
- Proactive measures that dispatch agencies must consider to provide better service for DV callers through policies, procedures, resource referrals, and training.
- The value in practicing non-judgment when engaging with the callers and just focusing on extending the best help that can be provided.
- How holding on to the stressful nature of the job, the judgment, and callers’ problems can affect one’s own mental health.
- The Pepperoni Pizza Myth, lessons for dispatchers on how to probe and better understand cues from their callers, and the burden of a public education campaign on the use of 911 to report domestic violence.
- How COVID-19 created the perfect storm that worsened domestic violence through:
- Extended time at home and possibly with an abuser.
- Isolation from others who can provide support, help, and report such incidents.
- Inability to get medical attention because of the restrictions due to COVID.
- Financial issues which add stress to individuals stuck at home.
- Social distancing which poses challenges for entities that provide support and assistance to DV victims.
Questions from the audience were about:
- Handling calls initiated by children, elders, and those with mental disabilities and how to get the best type of information possible from them.
- The link of domestic abuse to animal cruelty.
- Recognizing trauma from the callers.
- Handling repeat calls that don’t seem to be actual emergencies.
- The logic behind why dispatchers shouldn’t be asking leading questions.
Other Webinars with this Speaker
- Feb 9: Domestic Violence and Dispatch (this webinar)
- May 4: Creating the Best Start for New Dispatchers
Resources and Handouts
- TED Talk: Leslie Morgan Steiner “Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t Leave”
- Article: The Link between Cruelty to Animals and Violence toward Humans
- “I learned to be careful when giving an ETA for officer safety. We do let the callers know that they may be in the area, but I never considered a potential ambush.” — Rachel
- “How Dispatchers are attuned to Domestic violence callers and know what questions to ask the victims is really impressive to me. Sounds like dispatchers have taken the DV101 training.” — Anifatu
- “Safety and time are paramount/so important for officer and caller. Asking the right questions! Excellent presentation!” — Beverley
- “I was inspired to invite local dispatchers to our roll call DV training sessions!” — Brenda
- “The most valuable thing I learned was to treat every incident as a new incident, even if it’s a frequent caller.” — Jessica
- “The importance of looking beyond the questions and the answers. Thank you for a great webinar!” — Rosolena
- “I enjoyed the tools to use with domestic violence calls, to include monitoring for cultural variations and being mindful of my attitude towards the caller. I am going to go back through and examine her other lectures on domestic violence and animal abuse. Wonderful and clear presentation!” — Elizabeth
- “Outstanding presentation. Useful tips and information. A great reminder of how important it is to be proactive and have a plan in place. Look forward to the next related webinars.” — Felecia
- “I have workers who go out on calls that LE assists with that are DV in nature. DV reports are very difficult to understand the victim’s mindset. The bottom line is making sure the children are safe/ protected. I appreciate all the information dispatchers get when taking calls. I have taken calls from DV victims in which you can hear they want to make a change, but are scared and don’t feel supported and won’t be able to succeed. Great job dispatchers for doing a very difficult job.” — Jennifer