Updated: Jul 5
Ryan Dedmon, 911 Training Institute
It all started simply enough. Ricardo Martinez, a retired police dispatcher and the Creator of Within the Trenches Podcast, wanted to help national organizations that were challenging the federal government’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the reclassification of public-safety dispatchers from clerical to protective services.
On August 24, 2016, the #IAM911 Movement was born.
Since then, thousands of dispatchers from around the world have shared their stories, either online through social media or in special breakout sessions of “Imagine Listening” that Martinez does at conferences. But in only two short years, the #IAM911 Movement has evolved into something very special.
Today’s #IAM911 Movement has ascended to new heights, far above the original purpose of advocating for the occupational reclassification of dispatchers. The movement has given dispatchers a platform to share calls that have had long-lasting impacts in their lives. Dispatchers are often times unintentionally first to be forgotten and the last to be remembered in the field of public-safety. The #IAM911 Movement has encouraged dispatchers to find their voice and provided them a megaphone to share powerful stories reminding the general public that dispatchers are just ordinary people who do extraordinary things in service to others. It has humanized the voices that answer 911 emergency calls. You can find these stories using the hashtag #IAM911 on social media.
Although the movement has validated the working role of public-safety dispatchers, more importantly, its platform has created an environment where dispatchers feel safe sharing stories that show their vulnerability. Dispatchers around the world have come to realize they are not alone in their battles with burnout, compassion fatigue, acute stress, and post-traumatic stress. It has made the 911 industry more self-aware of the stress-related injuries from which dispatchers have silently suffered for too long.
The #IAM911 Movement has created a paradigm shift; it has transformed the 911 industry. Where do we go from here? That is up to us.