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Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat Paperback – September 15, 2007


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Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat + Master The Public Safety Dispatcher/911 Operator Exam: Targeted Test Prep to Jump-Start Your Career (Peterson's Master the Public Safety Dispatcher/911 Operator Exam) + Public Safety Dispatcher I(Passbooks) (Career Examination Passbooks)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Borealis Books; 1 edition (September 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0873516028
  • ISBN-13: 978-0873516020
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #684,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

I want to save lives, but I'm willing to settle for just not killing anybody," confides this suburban Minneapolis author about being a rookie 911 dispatch operator . In simple prose that is often crass and amateurish, Burau recounts moments of terror and incompetence among her colleagues: one dispatcher plays computer games while listening to a suicidal caller ; others send medics to the wrong address while an acid-burn victim suffers. Cynical and bitter after two years on the job, Burau has harsh words for callers who report cell phones stolen from unlocked cars; a "frequent flyer" (someone "always in crisis") who wants the police to baby-sit her kids; and a woman whose grisly trailer-home suicide is relayed by her hysterical 12-year-old daughter. Recalling her abortive attempts as nursing student, reporter for a community paper and locksmith and, in sordid detail, her addiction to crack and an abusive boyfriend, Burau has been in recovery for 11 years and has married and adopted a stepdaughter she adores but worries about failing. Although this clearly isn't her intention, Burau's honest memoir of the 911 trenches will make readers queasy about the quality of emergency service personnel in their own communities. (Aug. 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Burau provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the dispatchers whose job alternates between stretches of boredom and episodes of fear, stress, and chaos. Although she doesn't provide many specific stories, she conveys what it is like to answer the phone, become involved in a crisis, and maybe never learn how it was resolved. The author's path to working as a dispatcher was circuitous. In high school, she became involved with drugs and an abusive boyfriend. After a three-day jail stint, she returned home, got sober, graduated college, and found the love of her life. Inspired by a desire to help people, she studied nursing but couldn't stand the sight of blood. After a brief career as a reporter at a local paper, she applied to work as a dispatcher-a difficult, demanding job she is still not sure she is good at, much like (step)motherhood. Burau ably shows what it's like to be responsible for lives when one is miles from the emergency. This is a fast, fascinating read.—Susan Salpini, formerly at TASIS-The American School in England
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Writing good nonfiction can justify any and all poor life decisions, and I'm out to prove it.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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I found this book and read it in one morning!
Amazon Customer
I really enjoyed reading this book, it gave great insight into what it must be like to be a 911 operator.
Rebecah Thompson
There are very few books out there from the perspective of a 911 call taker/dispatcher.
Beth

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Peter Orlowicz on October 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Having worked as a 911 dispatcher, I cannot say enough good things about Ms. Burau's book. It is difficult to put into words what the job is like, the sorts of feelings and experiences dispatchers get, and Ms. Burau does an amazing job of explaining it. I found myself nodding in agreement (or laughing out loud,) seeing my own experiences in the events she narrates.

By no means is her account a whitewash or festival of warm fuzzies; some of the events she describes (and her and other dispatchers' reactions to those events) may be shocking or disturbing to those who haven't been there. This doesn't make those events or reactions any less real, or any less common in other police departments or dispatch centers.

Dispatchers are sometimes overlooked in the organization of police departments; many people assume the person they speak to on the other end of 911 is a police officer. Ms. Burau does an exceedingly good job of opening up this sub-society. Highly recommended, both for laypersons outside the field who want to understand what it's like in a 911 comm center, and for dispatchers who want a mostly humorous, sympathetic look at what we choose to do for a living. This is the best written account of 911 dispatching I've read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This was one of those "staff picks" at the library that catches your eye as you're trying to check out the books you *did* come in for... Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat by Caroline Burau. Since it was relatively short and had a sufficiently quirky premise, I picked it up. It turned out to be one of the more entertaining reads I had this year.

Contents:
What It's Like; Destiny, or Something; On-the-Job Training; Joe Wilson; Power Phones; Lily; Good Neighbors; Friends in High Places; Anniversary; Jurisdiction; My Marsha; Kristen; Coppers; Hostages; Smucked; On the Night Shift; That Loving Feeling; Just Too Silly; changes; Words; On Burnout; The Parenting Option; On Wannabes; DOA; The Job; Retirement; Wherever You Go; Full Circle; Acknowledgements

Burau has led a far different life than most of us... She was somewhat of an outsider growing up, and ended up getting hooked on crack. This addiction, fed by her boyfriend, culminated with her doing a few days in a Florida jail when she was busted for "loitering", just moments before they were supposed to be picking up some product. She took a hard look at what she had become, and ended up going back home to start over. Her nursing career ended in college when she would get queasy over blood. Her career as a reporter wasn't working out much better. One day while following a story at the police station, she was encouraged to apply for a job as a 911 operator. Surprisingly, her drug background didn't discourage the interviewers, and she started a new life on the desk of a small-town emergency response agency.
Read more ›
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Weihs on August 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've worked for 9-1-1 since 1986 and have been in the same center since 1991 and must say this book surprised me with it's completely unvarnished look at the career of 9-1-1 dispatching. The prose is good, the content accurate, and the people genuine. If you want to know about working for 9-1-1 this book has it right.

I've read the other reviews on here and to those who gave the book 3 stars I want to point out -
1. Yes, the author does spend a lot of time on the non-emergency calls. This is an honest look at our workload and I applaud the author for not adopting a Rescue 9-1-1 type mentality where only the exciting or sexy calls make the final cut. To really get the feel for our profession you need to hear about it all or you will never understand why we ask all the frustrating questions we do when you just want us to "just get them here!"
2. Former drug addict in our line of work? This surprised me too. Where I work we are unable to hire people who have felony level crimes in the criminal history background. However, standards differ throughout the country and there are some areas where turn-over is quite high. High enough that employers are willing to accept applications from those that others wouldn't. Having said that, the author is the genuine article and regardless of her background, she's doing the job the way the rest of us do it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christina Mac Kinnon on November 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It was interesting but there was a lot of jokes and not enough depth for me. I imagine that someone not in emergency services would rate it higher. I started wondering if some stories were just made up for the silly value. I mean seriously...you shot your partner in the ass...and he still speaks to you? On the plus side I have a few ideas for arts and crafts night now.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T. Goodwin on January 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book for some light reading and ended up sharing it with my entire center. It doesn't matter where you work - as 911 Dispatchers the same issues are faced, the sames jokes are told, and the same fellings are felt!! Should be required reading before a candidate sits for the civil service exam!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jatize on May 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
I have been strongly considering a position as a 911 Operator/Dispatcher and have had a hard time finding information regarding the "real life" of the job. This book was exactly what I needed! I enjoyed the author's practical information on her perspective of days in the "Hot Seat". Her inner thoughts on good days, bad days and those days where she adds a delightful sense of humor kept it "real". I could feel myself sitting in the comm center with her. This is an easy book to read and I had a hard time putting it down. I book marked some pages and have gone back to read them just to see if I could see myself doing this job.

Now if you are looking for information to pass the test or other training information, this isn't the book. BUT I would highly recommend it to someone interested in the field, to someone who is already doing the job or to someone who just wants to know how someone on the other end of 911 felt.
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