Ensuring the safety of the public requires constant coordination between the agencies involved. Fire, EMS, law enforcement, dispatch – these are just some of the key stakeholders that must collaborate to keep communities safe. In instances where the individual is the threat to his/her own life, another critical player steps into the scene. Crisis hotlines assist individuals in moments of crisis and they work alongside 9-1-1/Dispatch teams to save the caller’s life.
Amy Morgan and Halcyon Frank join forces to share how crisis hotlines and dispatch work together to cater to this specific sector of the community. Amy is the Founder and Director of Academy Hour, a training provider offering mental health & leadership courses to law enforcement and first responders. She is also a certified trainer for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), Question Persuade Refer (QPR), and Non-Violent Physical Crisis Intervention. Meanwhile, Halcyon Frank is the Founder of The Dispatch Lab – a dispatch training and support organization. She is also a full-time dispatcher and a key resource for the dispatch field across the US.
Specifics they discussed in this session are:
- Distinguishing crisis line and 911 dispatch based on the caller’s reasons for calling, anticipated assistance extended, and expected outcomes from the call.
- The difference in the types of information that crisis lines and 911 dispatch may gather and are privy to.
- The legwork that the 911 dispatch team must do to dig up information about the caller if the crisis line staff refers a call of exigent circumstance to them.
- Questions that dispatchers typically ask the callers to know details to better understand the call’s context and urgency.
- How crisis line staff can extract information by simply listening and having that conversation with the caller, building rapport, fostering trust, and demonstrating empathy.
- Handling tricky calls where the caller is actively suicidal by getting as much information as possible to buy time while dispatch is working parallel in the background to respond as needed.
- The importance of familiarizing with agency policies and protocols related to anonymity and allowed information to provide the best life-saving response based on agency capabilities and restrictions.
- The different sources and hacks that may be utilized by crisis line staff as well as dispatch to identify a caller’s location and respond to the call.
- The benefits of crisis lines in public safety in terms of workload triaging and sharing with emergency responders and de-escalating individuals.
- Exhausting every effort possible to find the caller and remembering that the agency is responsive but not responsible should the efforts not suffice to save a life.
- Resources that crisis lines staff may provide their callers as part of safety planning so the callers know exactly what to do in situations that they may not be able to think clearly.
Questions from the audience were about:
- Protocols for crisis lines when the caller expresses possession of a weapon.
- Handling crisis lines callers who are suspicious of having responders dispatched their way.
- How to ensure dispatch and crisis line staff are getting the support they need given their repeated exposure to traumatic details in calls.
- The process involved in getting mobile phone carriers to disclose subscriber information for exigent circumstances.
- Getting clergy as a resource.
- Scenarios where getting a caller’s information from cellphone carriers may require a warrant.
- The opportunity to provide a different experience for individuals who’s had a less than ideal experience with public safety responders.
- Best practices and model policies to reference for agencies who are yet to craft their own.
This is part of a two-part series:
- Sept 3: No Second Chance: Handling Suicidal Callers in Dispatch
- Nov 17: Life-Saving Partners: 911 and Suicide Lifelines Working Together (this webinar)
Resources and Handouts
- “Webinar’s entirety was informative and educational. Thanks again!” — Annette
- “I work in a sexual assault program which also has a 24/7 hotline that we answer. It isn’t a crisis line however we do deal with similar crisis calls but regarding the trauma and crisis around sexual assault. Many of the topics covered in this training I believe benefits both the crisis center work and sexual assault work.” — Bee
- “Thank you for the actionable takeaways (phrases and strategies to use to obtain location), and for reiterating that helpers are not responsible for the caller’s actions.” — Caitlin
- “Great knowledge on the topic and great information presented to the audience, thank you.” — Dawnette
- “Even though I don’t work on a crisis line specifically, I do interact with people in crisis and occasionally have been faced with the need to seek 911 assistance. The information and guidance provided by this webinar will be very helpful going forward.” — Jennifer
- “I liked that the information is from people who work in the field and has current information. Often times the trainings I am sent to the speaker is knowledgeable but has not worked in the field of a first responder. I liked how the presentation was very thorough and to the point.” — Julie
- “Having worked as a 911 dispatcher in the past, I appreciated the specific part about suicidal callers who make it clear they are going to commit the act and do not want their mind changed. The presenters provided great distracting topics to discuss with them such as their family will have to clean the mess once the body is taken, who will care for their pets, etc. in order to buy time so that responders can arrive to help.” — Sarah