CopShock: Second Edition
Surviving Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

by Allen R. Kates, MFAW, BCECR

 Police Dispatcher Trauma

Police Dispatchers are often the forgotten heroes when we talk about police stress, trauma and PTSD. After a critical incident, peer support groups may debrief police officers who were at the crime scene. Sometimes dispatchers who were involved with the call are included, but too often they are overlooked.

In the definition of PTSD, the main criterian is that the subject experienced or witnessed an event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury. Police dispatchers witness many scenes of death, mayhem and destruction while talking on the phone to victims. Yet there is little resolution. They often don’t know what eventually happened, whether the victims lived or died. When the critical incident involves a police officer such as an officer down call, suicide-by-cop, a shootout, or high-speed pursuit, the dispatchers suffer even more dramatically. They may experience adrenaline rushes, heart palpitations, anxiety, and fear. They may have sleepless nights, get irritable and angry, and develop eating disorders. Only in the past few years has police dispatcher trauma been fully recognized and understood.

CopShock, second edition, contains an entire chapter about police dispatcher trauma.

CopShock: Normal Reactions to Abnormal Stress
Featuring Allen Kates, Author and Trauma Expert

Police dispatchers will benefit greatly from the support sources listed for police officers in the Trauma Support Sources section of this website, but here are some sources specifically for police dispatchers.


911 Cares
911 Cares is run by volunteer 9-1-1 professionals who offer emotional support including stress debriefings to emergency communicators during difficult times or events. In addition, the organization awards “Everyday Heroes” within the industry, and provides public and agency education about 9-1-1 issues.
   Go to: Phone: 650-595-5202 ext 102 or 103. E-Mail:


9-1-1 Magazine
9-1-1 Magazine: Managing Emergency Communications is a print magazine for dispatchers that is published nine times a year. It contains a blending of product-related technical, operational, and people-oriented features. The magazine covers provocative issues and major incidents from both a responder and a communications standpoint. In addition, the website offers photo stories, career opportunities, web links, selected stories from past issues, and a 9-1-1 resource directory.
   Go to:


Dispatch Monthly Magazine
This online monthly newsmagazine offers a great deal of information dispatchers will be interested in. It connects to news stories that involve 911 dispatchers, provides a forum and bookstore, and addresses issues such as shifts, staffing, training, preparedness and stress management.
   Go to: Contact: Gary Allen. Phone: 877-370-3477. E-mail:


This website is about “helping dispatchers cope with stress,” and was founded and developed by one of your own—T. P. McAtamney, who served over ten years in emergency dispatching. The site is filled with articles about what dispatchers do, and how they react to stress, offers links to other helpful sites, free materials, a newsletter, and a weekly podcast. It also offers a seminar that addresses the stressors that affect 911 dispatchers, discusses positive and negative stress, how to cope with stress, PTSD, and nutrition.
   Go to: Phone: 954-270-8201. E-mail:


Under the Headset
Under the Headset: Surviving Dispatcher Stress (2000, Staggs Publishing) is a book about dispatcher stress and trauma. It was written by Richard Behr, a dispatcher and critical incident stress instructor, and covers the stress process and how to cope with it. It includes some humorous chapters, stories to inspire the dispatcher, prayers, and stories of survival. At just 116 spiral-bound pages, it answers a lot of questions about life on the headset and how to avoid the predictable burn-out after only two to three years.
   The book can be found at:, www.staggspublishing.comor

CopShock, Second Edition
$24.95 USD Each

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                                                                                                        Copyright © 2008, 2022 by Allen R. Kates