A Dispatcher’s Story

I’m a Dispatcher in Southcom and my story takes place in December 2019.

There was a fire on Mangere Mountain, so 111 calls were being taken by all 3 Communications Centres from around 10 or 11pm.

It was a Red Watch night shift, and at around 0515, I was presented with yet another NORTH-111.

I could immediately hear a smoke alarm in the background and knew this wasn’t another call for Mangere Mountain.

A female gave her address, told me her house was on fire, she was pregnant and she couldn’t get out.

With fantastic assistance from my Shift Manager & the Northcom Dispatcher, we extracted all additional information and passed it all to the first responding appliance.

I instructed her to stay on the floor, as low to carpet. And I stayed with her.

As her coughing became more pronounced, and her breathing became more laboured, I needed to make sure she wouldn’t panic, I stayed with her.

The first truck arrived and indicated the house was “well involved in fire” and my heart began to sink, I’ll be the last person she’ll ever talk to.

It felt like an eternity, but the sound of the rescue crew, breathing through their masks was one of the best sounds I’ve heard in my life.

She was still coughing so I knew she was alive, but I stayed with her until I could hear that she was in the hands of a medic. No goodbye, I simply ended the call.

Even though this is a good news story, it took me a month to realise I needed some counseling.

I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s because we get ZERO closure.

I don’t know how much smoke she inhaled, did it affect her pregnancy? How much time did she have left? Could I have been responsible for a 15-30 second delay in getting crews responding?

These questions, and many others consumed me, far deeper than I realised.

FENZ is so out of touch where mental health is concerned. I had to realise on my OWN that I was struggling, before I was able to get the help I needed. Even if it only required 2 sessions with a psychologist.