Take a look inside a Montreal 911 call centre
As part of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, Urgences-santé opened the doors to one of its three Montreal call centres to provide a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse.
“Well we get about a thousand calls on average per day,” said Vincent Brouillard, director of the centre.
He explained that during the morning peak periods, there are about 25 dispatchers working out of 110 who rotate through shifts and added that the job is stressful because of the types of calls they get.
“There’s quite a turnover,” he admitted.
That’s because even after the 14-week training, some people find out they can’t handle it.
Medical dispatchers there like Harris Hujic point out that it takes a certain kind of skill and personality to be able to do this job.
According to him, taking calls about car crashes often brings back difficult memories. He’s a victim of a head-on collision eight years ago which left him paralyzed below the waist.
He said it’s because of what he went through that he came here to do this job: to help others.
“When I do get calls on the phone about car accidents, I can relate to the patient that’s calling,” he told Global News. “I know what they’re going through and try to help them as much as I can.”
He believes he can bring a different degree of empathy because of what he’s been through.
Hujic pointed out, though, that regardless of past experience, each dispatcher has to be able to calm and reassure patients.
His colleague Maude Prévost agrees and remembered one call about a young person who attempted suicide.
“Just hearing the scream of the mom in distress seeing her child like that, it was so emotional that I had to take a break after that call,” she said.
Brouillard pointed out that there is help for staff if they need it, like psychologists and a peer support system.
According to Hujic, though, despite the challenges there are huge rewards.
“Some people call back the call centre to tell them, ‘Listen, the guy I got on the phone really calmed me down and I feel great now,’” he said, smiling.
Dispatchers say days like that, when they know they’ve made a difference, make it all worthwhile.
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