Behind the Scenes of 911 Calls

The Atlantic
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Inside an emergency dispatch center in San Francisco, 911 operators navigate the daily stresses of their job. Read more: www.theatlantic.com/video/index/588217/911/
"The Shift" was directed by Elivia Shaw and Paloma Martinez. It is part of The Atlantic Selects, an online showcase of short documentaries from independent creators, curated by The Atlantic.
Subscribe to The Atlantic on USvid: bit.ly/subAtlanticYT


Published on


Apr 29, 2019




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Comments 103
Cream Rolls
Cream Rolls 2 days ago
Eric Yu
Eric Yu 6 days ago
ytubeanon 8 days ago
can't stand the asian lady's vibe, her way of dealing with the stress is to be low-key sarcastic
King Farao
King Farao 9 days ago
The craziest job but I cant see myself doing anything else. I love the chaos and being raised in a very dysfunctional environment, did my schooling in violent surrounding, I suppose is the main reasons why I can do this without breaking a sweat. Your worst day is my everyday at work
Woxwell 9 days ago
Why would the government harm us. They are the parents of the adults, just like we are the parents of our kids. We are the children of the government. We cannot exist with them. We need their control over us till the day we go bye bye.
Walter Gramajo
Walter Gramajo 11 days ago
This is so sad
Валерия Пронина
работают лучше чем наши
slosher 2 months ago
This is in SF? I'm sure they're busy from clock in to clock out
josh656 3 months ago
Former police officer here...these folks are the true unsung heroes, I wouldn't last a day in their shoes!
Jose Diaz
Jose Diaz 3 months ago
I wonder why the place is so dark tho?
Jose Diaz
Jose Diaz 3 months ago
One of the most stressful. Intense jobs evrr
VibeVixen02 4 months ago
Rescue 911 could use a modern reboot
FairyGardens TV
FairyGardens TV 2 months ago
I agree.
Quinn R.
Quinn R. 4 months ago
Director: “Ok now everyone just start pretending like you’re on a call and make it crazy” Dispatcher: “And you said you’re falling out of a plane without arms? Help is on its way ok?”
Gena Lenz
Gena Lenz 8 days ago
You're kidding right. Their calls never. Ever. Stop. There is always someone calling, in need of help or not, people call. SOMEONE has to to take that call. Immediately.
Cyndi Brown
Cyndi Brown 4 months ago
I wouldn't be able to do this for 5 minutes.
chad rakestraw
chad rakestraw 4 months ago
This is a pretty accurate representation. I take 911 calls and actually just got off shift. Everyday is something different and the stress builds but you have to answer that next call. It’s sometimes hard to get someone’s voice out of your head. It’s got challenges but also rewards.
Shadow Fox
Shadow Fox 4 months ago
Thank you for your work
Alltrss 4 months ago
My mom is actually training to be a 911 dispatcher and her training is 3 to 6 months and omg the amount of codes she has is ridiculous
Sherry Wyllie
Sherry Wyllie 4 months ago
I dispatched in Oakland back in 80s. We covered 5 offices in 4 counties. Before cell phones was easier I think. It is wonderful that these dispatchers have access to gym for release of physical stress.
Bucky Gregg
Bucky Gregg 4 months ago
I can't even begin to express how much I appreciate this video. The way it expresses the day to day of the job. There's so much in this video, almost two sides to it. There's the perspective of the general public who have never worked in the field, and then there's the perspective of those who do it for a career. So much good information to educate the public, yet for those who do the work, there's a connection with what each person is saying. A connection of being there and knowing how that person feels.
abisz007007 4 months ago
No Music, No sensationalized on site footage, just a potrait of those workers. Hats off for that.
DC Infinity
DC Infinity 4 months ago
Such a well produced video! You let their experience speak for itself without interviews or narrations or anything. Beautiful
Josh Christiane
Josh Christiane 4 months ago
Thank you for the fantastic quality videos.
Kenzi 4 months ago
The Asian lady is so over stupid people
Mike Mondano
Mike Mondano 4 months ago
Having been outside such a center, I have heard the dispatchers call callers "whiners", "trash", and worse. They have also laughed about delaying help for people they think sound funny or who don't speak clearly, like when they have a mouth full of blood. Their chief amusement is being as sarcastic as possible to callers. Other cops often join in.
Alexander Davis
Alexander Davis 4 months ago
That's a lie
Bailey 4 months ago
Like trying to watch Game of Thrones.... why so dark?
Conr S
Conr S 4 months ago
Well done Atlantic, thank you for this
Amara  Jordan
Amara Jordan 4 months ago
My brother worked at a suicide hotline for almost a year while he was pursuing his master’s in Clinical Psychology, and it was really hard for him. To hear the pain the people were in and to only be able to do certain things for them. To have them hang up and not be able to be rescued, wondering if they had, in fact, killed themselves. It was really hard for him; he has anxiety himself and it was... emotionally draining and disturbing. I was glad when he rotated off of that. I can’t imagine dealing with a wider array of the darker side of humanity, never knowing what you’d get. It could be someone mad they got overdone chicken nuggets or a hostage situation in a bank. What bothers me is all the calls that are... completely pointless. 40-90% or 911 calls are deemed to not be an emergency. People either have stupid things they feel they should “report” or they should go to a doctor or the hospital (they can drive there, or even wait for an appointment) or or they’re “butt dials.” In just LA about 200,000 calls weren’t able to be answered due to demand. If the stats hold up, then there were at least 10% that were real emergencies that weren’t able to be answered due to the abuse of others on the system. How many people needed help and didn’t get it in time? It really pisses me off, to be frank.
Lisa Bowers
Lisa Bowers 4 months ago
I was a 911 dispatcher for our local sheriff's office _way_ back in 1993. I quit after 6 months because I couldn't handle the stress. Sometimes I had to go to the bathroom and just cry. Several of the calls I took were so horrific, I'll never get them out of my head. I not only took 911 calls, but I also dispatched sheriff's deputies. This is where I have to say, it's a good thing technology has improved! Our dispatch radios sounded like McDonald's drive-thru speakers. They were so bad, I'd have to keep asking the deputies to 10-9 (repeat). My _greatest fear_ was getting an officer calling for help and then not being able to understand his reported location. If I was on radio duty, then _I_ was responsible for that deputy's life. Between _that_ stress and the traumatic calls, I had to resign. Thank you for making this video. I don't believe people are fully aware of how difficult this job is. It's not something you ever really think about, until the moment you need their help. I have *mad respect* for anyone who has the strength and fortitude to be a 911 dispatcher!
Thatswhathesaid MichaelScott
Lisa Bowers 🥺
Conr S
Conr S 4 months ago
@Amara Jordan I always try to call Crisis hotline back to let them know that people are ok after officers arrive. I'm sure it varies by area but we have a large number of people who attempt or more commonly threaten suicide but never follow through with significant action. There is a large move towards having mental health practitioners go out in the field with officers to help reduce the burden on law enforcement.
Amara  Jordan
Amara Jordan 4 months ago
During your tenure you helped people; and that’s what matters. My brother worked at a suicide hotline while he was getting his master’s in Clinical Psychology. He has anxiety, and that job was... pretty horrible. To have people call and then hang up and you don’t know if they followed through on their threat or not. Hands being tied by the regulations of what to say and when. I’m sorry for the toll it took on you, but I bet that coming through it, it made you an even more empathetic person; you can’t be a witness to that much pain and it not change you. I just hope it did in some good ways too. And thank you for your tenure.
Ash Farlow
Ash Farlow 4 months ago
I could never do this. Most stressful job in the world.
Ben Morgan
Ben Morgan 4 days ago
Ash Farlow
Ash Farlow 4 months ago
@MOPARGuy Yes they do. They BOTH do.
MOPARGuy 4 months ago
Ash Farlow traffic air controllers have a stressful job.
Christian Desrosiers
Love my job :-)
Cam 4 months ago
this is such a good doc omg
Scot Czubaj
Scot Czubaj 4 months ago
Well done! 21 years on the job. We need the support from the people and government to pass the 911 Saves Act.
Chris Mackerdush
Chris Mackerdush 4 months ago
Your films are of such high quality, it blows my mind how relatively low the number of views are. Although that makes me treasure them even more.
Cantara Bella
Cantara Bella 4 months ago
Everything is so dark!!!!
Conr S
Conr S 4 months ago
Easier to relax
TJ Waters
TJ Waters 4 months ago
This was quite shallow. I hope it's part of a more involved piece.
khadi ja
khadi ja 4 months ago
I'm wondering why there is no video call possibility. I mean that would improve the work of the dispatchers, as one woman said at the end, they aren't sure what is reality, and it would be great evidences for the police.
Hi 4 months ago
True, but it would be traumatic.
Conr S
Conr S 4 months ago
That is a good idea and would be useful in certain situations but overall it wouldn't make it much easier.
Mathieux A
Mathieux A 4 months ago
Do they use civilians for San Francisco? It seemed like they were if they were able to come to work in T-shirts
LaElla Dickerson
LaElla Dickerson 4 months ago
Mathieux A I feel like for the work they do, appearance isn’t as important as other jobs.
Jeff W
Jeff W 4 months ago
Oh, it's over. I thought it was just beginning.
Jeff W
Jeff W 4 months ago
@Jayne Harper yeah I guess when you look at it like that. I just was expecting a documentary lol so this video seemed like an introduction. It seems 911 operator seems like an intense job
Jayne Harper
Jayne Harper 4 months ago
I like that they just ended it..... just like the perspective from the dispatcher.
Linda 4 months ago
Why are they working in the dark
Conr S
Conr S 4 months ago
Also it's 11pm no wants the room to be lit up at night.
Amara  Jordan
Amara Jordan 4 months ago
I’d love that! I have photophobia and can’t be in natural light for more than a few minutes because it triggers migraines (in basically a lame vampire in a way) and a dark room would be such an ideal work space. Yesss!
Scot Czubaj
Scot Czubaj 4 months ago
Less eye strain and fatigue from screens.
Clinton Gwanyama
Clinton Gwanyama 4 months ago
Linda it reduces the stress level in the room
xxsl8sherxx 4 months ago
Well done. Good video
Timothy O'Brien
Timothy O'Brien 4 months ago
FJ C 4 months ago
I would like to try this job. I love trying to help people. How does someone get this type of job?
RWD22 2 months ago
Call 911. :D
SHE SAID WHAT 4 months ago
Conrad S I thought the classes show them if your responsible to do the job because they can’t just hire you as you could be responsible for the person dying
Conr S
Conr S 4 months ago
@SHE SAID WHAT that depends greatly on where you're located. In our area there are no requirements to take classed for most agencies
SHE SAID WHAT 4 months ago
There’s also a class you have to take
Conr S
Conr S 4 months ago
Look up your local 911 and apply. It's usually that easy. Getting hired is another thing and passing training.. a whole nother level beyond that
Rose Miller
Rose Miller 4 months ago
Very cool behind the scenes! Keep up the good work, Atlantic.
Mmm K
Mmm K 4 months ago
What a stressful job! I can only imagine.. When I worked at AAA taking emergency roadside assistance calls it was pretty stressful sometimes, people yelling and stuff, especially if a baby or animal was locked in a car! But nothing like this. I am so grateful for them and all first responders.
Mmm K
Mmm K 4 months ago
@Mike Mondano Like I said, I can only imagine, sounds really really stressful, magnitudes worse than AAA!
Mike Mondano
Mike Mondano 4 months ago
AAA is just a vacation.
Bridge V
Bridge V 4 months ago
I salute these people. It takes a special Kind of person to do this job, you have people calling in with just absolute panic, feeling helpless and need assistance like yesterday , and then you have complete jerks giving them operators a day and night of hell I'm sure. I couldn’t do it, people are way out of control. Thank you 911 operators for all you do!!
Justin M
Justin M 4 months ago
Bridge V then there’s people that tell us to fuck ourselves while we are trying to save their family’s life
Charles Magnuson
Charles Magnuson 4 months ago
It's a shame that dispatch center doesn't properly light the building. It must be difficult working in the dark.
Conr S
Conr S 4 months ago
I'm guessing this is sarcasm..
ktt1977 4 months ago
The U.S. Navy does it in combat information center, the lowlight helps reduce stress.
Beyond Tribalism
Beyond Tribalism 4 months ago
It's done on purpose, supposed to reduce stress levels.
itismejoey 4 months ago
It's actually better that way during the evening hours. Dim the lights of the center and of the computer screens.
Nicholas Izzo
Nicholas Izzo 4 months ago
yeah idk why
Sincerely Eccentric
Sincerely Eccentric 4 months ago
Imagine trying to save an anonymous person's life, successfully getting the ambulance to them, saying good luck and never knowing what happened after you hung up.
Ghost777 Month ago
Sincerely Eccentric you can find out my mum was a dispatcher .
i don’t know who i am
My dad did dispatch for medical and was always able to find out what happened
Conr S
Conr S 4 months ago
@MRLONG758 fortunately the officers in my departments will let us know most of the time or we will ask
MRLONG758 4 months ago
I personally wouldn't be able to go on with my day without knowing the end result of my efforts. Not knowing would drive me crazy.
MRLONG758 4 months ago
Yeah you can't be someone who gets stressed out easily or over think things.
Razor Stitch
Razor Stitch 4 months ago
ASHGARD7 11 days ago
Razor Stitch 5:03 stop talking to everyone else
m a r s !
m a r s ! 4 months ago
LaElla Dickerson
LaElla Dickerson 4 months ago
I wonder what the turnover rate is for them. They have pretty stressful jobs.
Conr S
Conr S 4 months ago
@John D you're right, pay is pretty bad for alot of people. If you are willing to move to the Pacific Northwest, I work for one of the highest paying agencies in the country
John D
John D 4 months ago
Tons of turnover. At least in the medium sized city I lived in, most of our dispatchers left to go work customer service and the municipal power/internet company. They got paid significantly more there with better benefits with the muni provider than being 911 dispatchers.
Conr S
Conr S 4 months ago
It depends alot on your agency. Turnover is not high for employees over 2 years or so. Most find out quickly if they are up to the challenge and an even greater number do not pass training which can last 3 months to 9 months depending on if you are a 911 comm officer or a dispatcher. Our agency on average has about a 50% pass rate for training
Amara  Jordan
Amara Jordan 4 months ago
itismejoey in LA alone over 200,000 calls weren’t able to be answered in the space of only one year. It’s partially due to how many people call when there’s not a true emergency. But still, at LEAST 10% were emergencies, and how many of those people couldn’t call back? It’s really... distressing on many levels.
itismejoey 4 months ago
Very high. There is actually a nationwide shortage of dispatchers. One being because of the stress level, but also because dispatchers don't get the same kind of support (in the US) as another "first responder" would get.
Virt Real
Virt Real 4 months ago
I take my hat off for these people, hearing all kinds of nasty things.
Jeff W
Jeff W 4 months ago
Seems stressful job. Every day every call someone needs help or is in danger, and majority of the time operators have no idea how it ended
furstenfeldbruck 4 months ago
Put your hat back on
ChirashiChef 4 months ago
This is amazing.
Garrett 4 months ago
This is amazing
Go Peace
Go Peace 4 months ago
He can't hold it and it's getting messy. Ummm okay normal day?
Wheresmyeyebrow 4 months ago
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