If there is one thing Christina Lake wants people to know when they call 9-1-1, it’s that a real person is on the other end of the line. A person that cares. A person who tries to empathize and understand. A person that really wants to help.
“We’re not faceless people,” says Lake. “I try to put myself in their shoes."
Born and raised in Peterborough, Lake is the newest member of the Peterborough Police Service’s Communications team and has been a part-time 9-1-1 Communicator with the Service since June 2014.
Following her graduation from Durham College in the two-year 9-1-1 Emergency Call Taker Communications Program, Lake knew that she wanted to put her knowledge into use by working for a Police Service.
The training to become a 9-1-1 Communicator is nothing short of intensive and includes a placement period along with a five-month shadowing period once hired.
Lake recalls sitting in the 9-1-1 Centre during her training period and watching in awe as the veteran Communicators handled an emergency call. She describes one Communicator staying on the line talking to the person in crisis while another Communicator was already dispatching two officers to the location while a third Communicator was running background checks and gathering other information on the parties involved.
“It’s amazing what they do,” she says of her more experienced colleagues. “Watching everything, I thought: I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to do this. You have to be able to work with your team and take constructive criticism.”
Fast forward two years and while she is still learning every day, Lake is now a part of that finely-tuned machine run out of the Peterborough Police Station that handled 47,706 9-1-1 calls in 2015. Equal parts master-listener and talker—skills essential to her job—she has taken the meaning of multitasking to a whole new level.
Inside the 9-1-1 Centre at Peterborough Police
Lake describes one of the hardest parts of the job as trying to “read” each person that calls and make a correct assessment in a matter of seconds. While telling a person to take a deep breath and calm down may work on one call, that well-intentioned comment could only serve to aggravate and escalate a situation during another call.
Another very difficult part of her role is prioritizing calls as they come into the 9-1-1 centre and explaining to people how calls are placed on a queue, or triaged, depending on the emergency.
One of the best parts of Lake's job is helping find a resolution over the phone before an officer needs to be dispatched to intervene. Sometimes that means calling on her intensive training, and just being a good listener. Lake has had people tell her, “I just needed someone to tell me, It’s okay.”
When asked to describe her best day at work, her answer is not extravagant or extraordinary.
“The best day is when someone says a simple thank-you,” she says.
—article courtesy Lauren Gilchrist, Peterborough Police Service