Behind the scenes with Hartford emergency dispatchers

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HARTFORD -- 911 operators have a really tough job.

On a given day, Hartford's emergency dispatch center fields upwards of 500 calls, and more than 160,000 per year.

"You don't know who's going to be on the other end of the phone," said Pamela Galloway, a Hartford 911 dispatcher. "It may be someone looking for directions, it may be someone looking for assistance because they have a flat tire, or it could be someone calling because a loved one just got shot or they found a loved one on the floor, unresponsive."

Hartford's dispatchers undergo extensive training that lasts between nine months to one year before any phone calls are answered. On top of that, they have to undergo several certification classes and renew their training in varying increments, from monthly to bi-annually.

Dispatchers stress time is of the essence, which is why the location of the emergency is usually the first question asked.

"The longer it takes me to get information, the more the response time is delayed," said Pamela. "People don't understand that, even though I'm talking to you and asking questions, I've already entered the call and sent it to EMS and fire."

Pamela admits the job is incredibly stressful at times with long hours and, sometimes, mandated double shifts in order to properly staff the call center. Other times, the calls can take a personal toll.

"You talk to someone and then you find out in the end that they passed or they're critical and you're wondering what, or how they're going to end up, and you're on the phone with them--it gets to you."

But, she says, she's loved her 12 years on the job and doesn't plan to do anything else.

"You gotta be dedicated. You have to be dedicated because we spend more time here than we do with our families. This is our family."