The Vital Role of Appreciation in Our 9-1-1 Center

By Desiree Arnold, E-911 Director, Atlanta Police Department

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As the director of the Atlanta E911 Center, I am at the helm of a team that is critical to our city’s safety. Our staff are the first responders among the first responders. In the most urgent times, they are the calm voice on the line, the orchestrators of life-saving assistance, and the unseen hand guiding our emergency services to where they are needed most. This is no small feat, and the job comes with its own set of intense pressures and demands.

Given the high-stakes nature of emergency response work, the well-being of our staff is paramount. It is the foundation upon which effective and compassionate service is built. This is why recognizing and appreciating our staff isn’t just a managerial task—it’s a fundamental part of maintaining our operational integrity and effectiveness.

Appreciation in our line of work has a multi-faceted impact. It’s not just about saying “thank you”—it’s about acknowledging the skill, commitment, and emotional labor that goes into every call. It’s about creating an environment where our dispatchers feel genuinely supported and valued, an environment that empowers them to perform at their best. This is crucial in a field where every decision can mean the difference between life and death.

In the following sections, I’ll delve into why appreciation is essential, how we express it within our center, and the positive effects it has on our staff and the community we serve. I will also share personal examples of appreciation from our center, illustrating how these practices are more than just policies—they are ingrained in our culture.

Why Appreciation Matters

Appreciation goes beyond mere recognition; it’s about understanding and valuing the significant contributions our staff make every day. It’s important because:

Boosts Morale: Recognizing the hard work and achievements of our team boosts morale and fosters a positive work environment. It reminds them that their efforts are seen and valued, which is especially important in a high-stress job like ours.

Promotes Well-being: Our dispatchers deal with life-and-death situations daily. Showing appreciation can alleviate some of the emotional burdens they carry, promoting mental well-being and job satisfaction.

Encourages Growth: When staff feel appreciated, they are more engaged and motivated to continue developing their skills. This is essential in a field where every second counts and knowledge can save lives.

Strengthens Team Bonds: Celebrating our team’s successes strengthens the bonds between colleagues, which is critical in a job that relies on seamless collaboration.

How We Show Appreciation

In our center, we’ve integrated several initiatives to ensure our team feels valued. Besides simply encouraging daily peer to peer recognition, some examples include highlighting new employees early on, issuing caught red handed awards for when dispatchers are “caught” doing a great job by their supervisors or peers, hosting quarterly employee appreciation functions, bestowing you got mugged gifts (just because), making note of employee accomplishments and milestones on social media, and naming APD Excellence Award winners, where employees are recognized for going the extra mile by our police department. Moreover, we ensure that appreciation is part of our everyday culture through:

Personal Acknowledgment: I make it a point to personally acknowledge the hard work of our team members. I do this by involving my team in decisions that will impact them, listening intently to their concerns and being sure to always provide sincere and consistent recognition both internally and externally.

Professional Development Opportunities: We invest in our staff by providing ongoing training and advancement opportunities. As director, I prioritize and encourage opportunities for both personal and professional development through outside classes and industry specific conferences for all staff. 

Supportive Environment: We have established a supportive environment where every dispatcher knows they can rely on their colleagues and leadership for support. My team knows that I and each member of my leadership team has an open-door policy. Here at Atlanta E-911 we prioritize regular check-ins and are sure to engage our dispatchers and other staff with meaningful conversations often. 

The Impact of Appreciation

The impact of showing appreciation is tangible. Staff morale has improved significantly, and we are being recognized for how we show employee appreciation on social media and through our ranks. Our commitment to valuing everyone’s contribution not only enhances our work atmosphere but also directly translates into better service for the community we serve.

As we move forward, we will continue to find innovative ways to express our gratitude and support to our staff. We plan on beefing up our in-house peer support program and optimizing space for mental health and wellness initiatives. We encourage other centers to join us in this endeavor—because when we take care of our first responders, we uplift our entire community.

I invite you to follow our journey on social media or take a tour of our center to see the remarkable work our team is doing and the ways we celebrate their dedication. Our doors and hearts are always open to recognize the heroes behind the headsets.

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