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Answering 911

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  614 ratings  ·  100 reviews
You answer a call from a fourteen-year-old boy asking for someone to arrest his mother, who is smoking crack in their bathroom. You talk with him until the cops arrive, making sure there are no weapons around and learning that his favorite subject in school is lunch. Five minutes later, you have to deal with someone complaining about his neighbor's clarinet practice.What i ...more
ebook, 216 pages
Published September 15th 2007 by Minnesota Historical Society Press (first published 2006)
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It has been a year since I read this book, I think I'll have to put it back on my list of books to re-read now that I have anothter year of dispatching under my belt.

Overall I think she hit the nail on the head describing what life in the dispatcher's seat is like. The most enlightening quote in the book came on page 4: "I'll figure out how to make you understand what it's like to be staring at a crossword puzzle and trying to think of a six-letter word for 'run rapidly' one minute, and the next
As a 911 dispatcher, I loved this book. It was nice to read some of the things that I have felt throughout my years working this job put into words. I found my self nodding or laughing at the similarities. I skimmed over previous reviews that mentioned how cynical the writer was, however, until you sit in that chair and field all of those calls, which was the point of the book, you can't understand that skewed vision and sense of people and the world around you we see.
I loved the descriptions
I stumbled upon this book one day while browsing GoodReads, and was immediately drawn to the cover.

It was a perfect quick weekend read, and let’s face it, I’m a sucker for memoirs detailing lives more interesting and fast-paced than my own.

Of course, I assumed like most people Burau describes when they hear she is a 911 dispatcher – “Oh, you must have interesting stories.” I thought it would be neat to read a book about interesting stories, not realizing that the most “interesting” involved some
this book was really awful. it was relatively short, and turned into so-bad-its-good every once in a while, so i was able to actually get through all of it. i'm glad i did because some of the best of the worst shit was in the last few chapters.

it became very clear early on in the book that this woman very likely has borderline personality disorder, which is probably not uncommon in a job like this. she is also the kind of person who thinks that the phrase "wherever you go, there you are" is pro
I snagged this one while I was working a desk shift because the chair on the cover looked soooo comfortable... turns out, this slim little memoir was really engaging and engrossing! Caroline's transition from crack smoking, abused girlfriend to 911 dispatcher is bittersweet: just as she gains mastery over the hectic, oppressive atmosphere of the call center (just when DO you think they get time to vacuum a place that's occupied 24/7?) she's beginning to doubt whether she can do this job for 30 y ...more
May 07, 2012 Lmcn rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All 911 dispatchers
Recommended to Lmcn by: Found on the internet
I am a fairly new 911 Dispatcher (4 yrs) and was really, really searching for some insight and inspiration. I absolutely loved this book and wished that this writer would do more. I felt like I was reading about my own dispatch centre. It helped me realize that some of the things that occur and some of the feelings I feel at work are normal...I'm not an anomaly. I have recommended this book to my other co-workers and my 911 partner read it while we worked together, we laughed so hard because it ...more
I was a dispatcher pre-911. Different world. When I dispatched in the 1970's if someone needed the police for an emergency or for just some bull-shit, they all called on the same phone line. No big fancy computers way back then, you sort of flew by the seat of your pants, waiting for information for officers on the street that took way too long. I worked for a small department with only three or four cars on the street on a shift, and the fire department when they went out. Caroline really hit i ...more
As a 911 dispatcher myself, this book was both encouraging and disheartening. It's nice to know that SOMEONE out there understands what I go through everyday, but it's also depressing to find that, apparently, the job is the same wherever you do it. Not the author's fault, of course! Some of the calls described were all too familiar, some over-dramatic, and I will admit that periodically, I found myself just not liking the author at all. As a whole, definitely worth my time, though, and nice to ...more
Quite amazing, a vivid description of life on the other end of that telephone line. The plot is fast paced, the prose is witty, and while the book makes light of dark subjects, it also Elaine why, and explains why emergency workers must adopt that attitude, or face emotional breakdown. Highly recommended for anyone in emergency services, or anyone with an appreciation for the men and women who devote their lives to keeping the rest of us safe.
Cassandra Crenshaw
I recommend reading this book if you have any interest at all in joining a dispatching crew. She doesn't sugar coat a thing! It's a good picture of the personality a person needs to possess to do that kind of work. It also brings insight to the struggle of separating home and work. She struggles with whether she can perform her duties effectively and up to par which is something everyone can relate to especially me.
I was extremely excited to read this book, but equally disappointed when I finished. I read this book in an effort to understand why every time I call 911, the dispatcher sounds as if they don't care. Thankfully, that question was answered by the time I finished. But I was just so /bored/ by the end of the book. Too much talk about bathrooms and her coworkers. Meh.
Dawn Mateo
GREAT book! Absolutly phenominal!! If you work in fire, police, or EMS, this is TOTALLY the book for you! I laughed out loud several time and shook my head in agreement with the author even more. Outstanding book! A great new author is on the horizon!
Wendy Williams
I found this to be an engrossing book unlike others that I've read. I thought that the entire thing would just be one 911 call after another and that it would be one of those books that I would read a chapter and then put down due to the monotony of the subject matter. Boy was I wrong! Yes, there were 911 calls, but it also included the backstory of the author, which I found interesting. She also wrote about the training aspects of being a dispatcher and the art of fitting in at the 911 call cen ...more
A must read for anyone who has done this. She is very realistic in her description of life as a 911 dispatcher and very honest about her life.
NOTE - This book was poorly edited and there are countless spelling mistakes and errors.

NOTE - This book really could have only been 156 pages long the last 47 pages were not really crucial to the story and were more of a tirade/rant about the pros and cons of being a 911 dispatcher. I think this subject matter is demonstrated clearly in the stories and encounters the author shares with the readers.

At first when I started reading this book I was thinking of changing careers and that this was som
This past Christmas I received a Kindle e-reader from my lovely bride. I
was anxious to utilize it during my 'slower times' at work. I was also
somewhat hesitant to get caught reading "outside reading material',
which our SOP forbids. Therefore, I checked Amazon for e-books about
dispatching. Unfortunately, books about dispatching are pretty rare and
not many have been converted into e-format. Amazon only listed one book
about dispatching, "Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat" by Caroline Burau.
Terri Ann
The tales of the book are very gripping, but the rest of the book is brimming with mundane deatils (I don't need to know that her bra opened during a call and that she had to "wait to tuck the girls back in" after the call.) This book is more about the opinions of the author about the callers themselves, not the situations at hand. I was hoping that the book would be a compilation of experiences, but instead it was a snarky arrogant tale of the author's disdain for most of the callers that calle ...more
I've never worked in a 9-1-1 call center, but the emergency telecommunications field has been on the fringes of my life for many years. My husband (from whom I borrowed this book) became a 9-1-1 dispatcher back in the '90s, and I began working in law enforcement administration myself in 2005. I currently work in Records for the local Sheriff's Office, so many, many of the scenarios Burau describes in this book are familiar to me. I type them up every day. My co-workers and I have the same dark a ...more
Rhiannon Johnson

Answering 911 Life in the Hot Seat by Caroline Burau

Caroline Burau acknowledges the general public's fascination with her job. As a 911 dispatcher she fields calls from people in danger as well dangerous people. We follow her from her first day on the job, to on-the-job training, through her rotation at multiple stations within the call center.
I empathized with her back story. She had been through drug addiction and come out on the other side. I also thought that being a 911 operator might be t
Writer's Relief
It seems like there have been a million books, TV shows, and movies about police officers in the line of fire. But how often do we get a look at the dispatchers that send them there? When you notice a strange person hanging around outside your neighbor’s house at four in the morning and you don’t know who else to call, the men and women who answer the phone are as important as the officers who respond to the call. ANSWERING 911: LIFE IN THE HOT SEAT follows a rookie dispatcher from her first day ...more
Another one of the memoirs I gravitate towards, this one from a 911 dispatcher. The author takes us inside the world of her job, which often consists of tedium interrupted by soul-rattling, life-or-death emergencies. We learn that although the dispatcher is safely ensconced away from the emergency, s/he can still suffer from anxiety disorders and depression as a result of what s/he encounters. Along with her triumphs, the author shares with us some painful cases in which help did not arrive quic ...more
Aldridge Murrell
The novel “answering 911 life in the hot seat” was a very interesting and easy read. For annotations it has questions that you can ask about her life and what she done throughout the book. What was interesting about this novel was how she became a 911 operator how her life had turned out at the end of the novel. Before becoming a 911 operator she was a reporter then a registered nurse. She was addicted to the drug crack cocaine and had an abusive boyfriend which had given her crack cocaine for f ...more
Written by a 911 dispatcher. It is interesting. I never realized how much code you would have to understand in order to do this job. There are so many #'s involved, code #'s for each type of incident, code #'s for each cop unit, even the time is in "code" for me. Take this conversation from the book, Officer 2460: "2460, clear me code 20" Dispatch: "Copied. Clear at 14:55" And of course that is a very simple one. I'm still calculating what time 14:55 is, yeah I got it now, but it is far from ins ...more
This is the memoir of a woman who dropped out of nursing school, and dabbled briefly in drugs before eventually finding her calling as a police dispatcher and 911 operator. She includes many anecdotes from her life on the job and how demanding her career is. She also attempts to explain the many codes that she needs to know to do her job without talking down to her audience. I read this on my Nook and I couldn't help but notice a number of minor but distracting editing issues: letter sequences t ...more
Maria M. Elmvang
I've wanted to read this book for ages, but never seemed to be able to find it in any physical bookstores or libraries. Finally I gave up, and bought it online.

It was worth the wait. Real-life stories from less-than-common careers have always fascinated me (other books that fit those criteria: "ER Confessional" and "Kitchen Confidential"), and "Answering 911" was every bit as interesting as I'd expected it to be. I liked Caroline Burau's way of writing and appreciated that she didn't feel the ne
Michele Benchouk
Interesting perspective. I'm not sure what I was looking for from this one, but I guess I didn't find it. I think it might have been the lack of closure in her stories -- but then, as the author notes, the dispatchers rarely get closure either. That was the most enlightening part of the book for me.
This book has a lot of not-so-good reviews, and I have to say that I am surprised. This book is a lot of what I was expecting - a memoir with a little bit of 911 call center drama mixed in. While it did get repetitive at times, it was certainly interesting to see how one woman rose above her past and has kept at her pursuit of happiness - one of these pursuits being a job at a 911 call center. The calls she describes were interesting and I found the progression of her skin getting thicker very i ...more
Aleta W Lowe

Engaging and factual account of this author's experience as a 911 operator. Moved right along and was an enjoyable read. This is the first book I've read on this subject. I chose it to help me decide if this is a career position that I would consider pursuing.
The jacket doesn't really warn you properly that the author was a crack addict. There isn't much worse you can say about a book after that. I suppose 911 calls are sad, mostly. Anybody who has dealt with the public on a daily basis knows there are always interesting stories though. And the book has a few of those. But mostly it is her fumbling through the learning curve in a very plain writing style (which I usually admire). I'm not sure what I was expecting...I think I hoped I would take someth ...more
Quite representative of the work done by dispatchers everywhere. The whining, the bitching, the back-stabbing and the challenging job to be done in between, it's all in there. For better and for worse.
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Caroline Burau lives in White Bear Lake, Minnesota with her husband, three cats, and one nervous yellow lab.
More about Caroline Burau...

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“My mind is a dangerous place to be alone without supervision.” 7 likes
“There’s a certain mentality in law enforcement that says you shouldn't be the type of person who takes things personally. If you are, you’re weak. Build a wall. I hear that one a lot. The problem is, I’m a person. And when another person calls me on the phone asking for my compassion and my help, I don’t want them to have to jump my wall to get it.” 2 likes
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