Don’t answer the door.
Hang on, officers are on their way.
As an experienced dispatcher for the Anaheim Police Department, Michelle Siemer has said countless variations of the above to people on the other end of the 911 call.
Often working with only limited information, she has had to make split-second decisions knowing that her choices could impact the safety of an officer or member of the public.
But that’s what good dispatchers are able to do: think on their feet.
“Not only are we required to multi-task, but we have to be exceptionally quick at it,” said Siemer, recently promoted to senior dispatcher. “We need to speak in a calm voice during hectic situations, be assertive without being rude, and just take the initiative to go above and beyond what is expected.”
As a child, Siemer was mesmerized with the TV show “Rescue 9-1-1.” Her dad noticed her fascination, and when Siemer was a teen, trying to figure out her lot in life, he suggested that she shadow a 911 dispatcher.
“He arranged it, and I absolutely loved it,” Siemer said.
Fresh out of high school, she applied for a front-counter position at the Buena Park PD. After several different jobs with that agency, she was hired as a full-time dispatcher with Anaheim PD — and hasn’t looked back.
Stress definitely comes with the job.
“For me personally, it’s specifically the stress of not physically being there to help someone when you have an open line on a 911 call and hearing someone’s life in jeopardy,” Siemer says. “It can be difficult to listen to those things happen to someone knowing that help is still on the way, and all I can do is continue updating the call with what I hear.”
But the satisfaction of knowing she potentially made a crucial difference in someone’s life makes the job so rewarding, Siemer says.
Siemer looks forward to the new challenges her promotion will bring.
“I hope to gain as much knowledge as possible and expose myself to different situations that I haven’t dealt with before as a first-line supervisor,” she says.
There are certain to be plenty of different situations – for, as Siemer can attest, you never know what’s going to be the other end of the 911 call.