First responders of all types are at risk for the development of mental and behavioral health conditions as a result of the repeated exposure to trauma they face. Much research has explored their lived experiences and work has been done to evaluate interventions to mitigate the stress associated with this type of work. However, the majority of this research fails to include 911 Telecommunicators as first responders even though they are also at risk for experiencing trauma (SAMHSA, 2018; Skeffington et al., 2016; Camaro et al., 2020; Stabile, 2015). The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences and perceptions of 911 Telecommunicators and increase awareness on the hardships associated with the job. Qualitative freelisting interviews were utilized to explore experiences and perceptions of 911 Telecommunicators, job-related stressors, and perceptions on the most challenging day at work. A total of 11 interviews were conducted among participants from the Montgomery County Emergency Operations Center. Participants were asked to list all of the words/phrases that came to mind in response to four freelisting-styled questions. A fifth question, which was an open-ended question, was also asked to provide further insight on the job of a 911 Telecommunicator and potential changes that could be made in the field. For the freelisting questions, responses were recorded in the order that they were received. Data were cleaned by combining synonymous terms and truncating phrases, and Anthropac was used to compute frequency, average rank, and salience (Smith’s S) for each response stated for each question. Words and phrases such as stressful, long hours, sad, helplessness, rewarding, helpful, pay, death, child, mental health, physical health, and sleep were found to be most salient, indicating that there are many burdensome connotations associated with being a 911 Telecommunicator. Despite having such a small sample size, these findings help shine light on the hardships associated with being a 911 Telecommunicator and can be utilized to inform future research and interventions.
Gibilante, Angela, "Examining the Unseen Trauma Endured by 911 Telecommunicators" (2021). Master of Public Health Capstone Presentations. Presentation 388.