911 dispatch key to local public safety response

Vital role not a job for everyone

911 emergency dispatch vital to public safety response

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Calling 911 in an emergency or to report something that's happened begins the response from public safety agencies and the person taking the call must have unique qualities.

Becky Palmer has worked dispatch for the California Highway Patrol for 12 years.

"We have calm moments peppered with chaos", Palmer said, "you have to be quick, you have to think on your feet, you have to move with it, you never know what you're going to get from call to call, so you have to be able to flip that switch, jump into it and go."

Palmer is the calm voice on the other end of a 911 call that is sometimes made in moments of desperation.

"Telling someone who is really hysterical or upset to take a deep breath, it helps get oxygen to the brain, gives them a moment of pause where they can think", Palmer said, "then I can ask them a question and I can get that pertinent information I need for the call."

That information is critical to providing the necessary public safety response as quickly as possible.

"Location is probably my number one", Palmer said, "I want to know where somebody is, I can at least get help started that way."

While the number of 911 calls may drop off overnight, the seriousness of each call remains the same.

"Overnights are difficult because you usually have more serious incidents happen overnight", Palmer said, "you filter out a lot of the reckless vehicles, a lot of the misdials or accidental dials that happen during the day shift when people are awake, you seem to get your heavy, major incidents at night."

Working around the clock in the CHP Communications Center in San Luis Obispo, Becky Palmer and her fellow dispatchers take 911 calls from an area that stretches far and wide.

It's an important but very unique job Becky Palmer says she had a calling for.

"A friend of mine tipped me off after the Paso Robles earthquake saying I was really calm and got a lot of our staff out of the building, that I was pretty good in an emergency situation and I should try out for this and I did", Palmer said about becoming a public safety dispatcher, "I think that if you find something that your really enjoy and you love and are passionate about, mine is helping people and I think that I'm in a great position in the job that I'm in to do that."

To learn more about becoming a public safety dispatcher visit

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