Life of Constant Crises Takes Emotional Toll on 911 Operators

911 Operators' Long Term Toll

“They’re handling tons of calls in which they are experiencing pretty strong emotional distress and response to them. People handling calls where parents have found their child drowned in a pool and having a sibling in the house with a knife that’s trying to attack the other or having to talk to people who are literally dying within a natural disaster. I mean just horrifying calls," Lily said.

"You don’t have to be on the scene, you don’t have to be a police officer or a firefighter to be traumatized by these calls. So there certainly was PTSD symptomology,” she said.

The National Emergency Number Association said the field has begun to appreciate "the long lasting and severe physical and psychological effects" of the 911 jobs, according to Ty Wooten, NENA's director of Education and Operational Issues.

The group recommends that 911 centers create an eight hour course for employees on recognizing and handling the effects of stress.

Lily said the mental toughness demonstrated by the 911 crews was remarkable and was an illustration of how "resilient" they are.

"I think our rates of psychopathology are actually pretty low,” she said.

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