How do 911 operators handle crisis situations?

How do 911 operators handle crisis situations?
Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 3:02 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Earlier this week, the 911 calls from Monday’s mass shooting in Louisville were released.

In them are panic-stricken witnesses pleading for help from the 911 operators. WKYT spoke with the director of Lexington’s 911 center to learn more about how they handle crisis situations.

Jonelle Patton, director of Lexington Enhanced 911, says operators are the first, first responders and a lifeline for the caller.

Before taking a seat in the comm center, Lexington’s 911 operators go through 160 hours of training. The majority of that training focuses on how to talk with people through emergencies and responder safety.

Patton says they can receive up to 6,000 calls a day.

“You have to talk in a way to be able to get the information that you need,” Patton said.

Patton says they use verbal judo skills, which involve repetitive questions and a calm voice.

“People, when their anxiety is heightened, when they’re frustrated, when they’re mad, it takes a toll. They don’t know what to ask,” said Patton.

Patton says there are times when there’s more calls coming in than there are operators. In this case, the phone will keep ringing until it can be answered.

“We want you to stay on the line when you call. When you hang up the phone when you call 911, and you call back, you’re going to the bottom of the call list.”

Right now, Patton says the 911 center is down seven call takers and eight dispatchers. However, she says, they’re still ready and prepared to answer any calls for help.

“We’re going to handle it with grace. We’re going to handle it with care. We’re going to handle it with a servant leadership mentality,” said Patton.

Patton says the 911 center did experience an outage this week but that it didn’t impact incoming calls. She says the systems are back up.