“Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat” by Caroline Burau

When I’m not blogging or playing guitar, my job is writing technical and product communications for a software company that develops 911 and first responder software. In order to better understand my target audience, I asked my supervisor to recommend a book that would give me insight into what it is like to be on the receiving end of a 911 call. She recommended Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat by Caroline Burau.

This is a short book and a very quick read. I basically blew through it while flying and passing time in airports on a trip this past week. While the writing is not Pulitzer material, I found the book fascinating and honest. Burau openly shares her experiences in a 911 center, how she handles the stress of the job, the challenges, and the satisfaction.

What struck me as interesting was the sheer volume of BS calls that are received in a 911 dispatch center. You would think that people would only call 911 if it is an emergency. Not the case. These centers are inundated with calls ranging from the bizarre to the just plain stupid. I couldn’t believe that people still call 911 to request the fire department to come and get a cat down from a tree. As the writer points out, you never see dead cats in trees. The cat will eventually figure out how to get down.

This book may not be for everyone, but if you are interested in first response and want to know what it’s like to be the initial person who handles an emergency situation, then this book is worth perusing.

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