FOX’s ‘9-1-1’ Show Highlights the Role of Dispatchers

SACRAMENTO -- The new TV show "9-1-1" is a hit on FOX. It is billed by the network as a "fast-paced exploration into the lives and careers of first responders," including dispatchers.

"It comes at you," said star Angela Bassett in a satellite interview with FOX40. "There's so much tension and drama, and fast-paced. You're holding on to the seat of your chair."

Some of the show's drama takes place inside a communication center where stressed-out dispatchers receive 911 calls.

FOX40 visited the Sacramento Sheriff's Department communication center in Elk Grove to see how the show compares to real life.

"We do handle a lot of things that do reach that level of drama," said Sgt. Shaun Hampton, who managed the center for two years. "But they are not as frequent as Hollywood makes them out to be."

The dispatchers are unsung heroes, Hampton explained, because they make sure people get the help that they desperately need, and they don't get to witness the end result of their work. But they say the job is nonetheless rewarding.

"It's a great feeling to know that you are able to help the people that call in," said dispatcher Chris Crumley.

"You're trying to get life-saving help to them, and you're able to make all of that work, and get everybody together in a life-saving effort that's successful," said dispatcher Stephanie Green, describing a rewarding day.

"Honestly, I go home every day loving what I do," Crumley concluded.

Yes, the job can be stressful.

"We all struggle at times," Green said.

"Often times, you're multi-tasking," explained Crumley. "Several things are happening very quickly."

But again, it is not like the heightened reality of TV drama.

"Thankfully for us, not every call is a high-stress emergent type of call," Crumley added. "I think that would certainly make the position much more difficult if you were inundated with that type of scenario every day."

As Green put it, "It's 98 percent just mundane stuff, punctuated by 2 percent of terror."