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Answering 911

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3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  552 ratings  ·  96 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,375)
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Brooke
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
...more
Jennifer
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
...more
Amanda
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
...more
Chris
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
...more
edh
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
Lmcn
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
Maureen
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
Brooke
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
Matt
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.
Alicia
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!
Judith
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.
Tom
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.
...more
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
Stina
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
...more
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
Peacegal
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
Chana
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
Nancy
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
...more
Sarah
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!

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.
Kyle
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
David
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.
Holly
This book is written by a former 911 dispatcher. I had no idea prior to reading that the author worked as a dispatcher for East St. Paul and suburbs nearby. She describes how difficult her job was, especially in the beginning when she didn't really know what she was doing. She describes the desperation she feels as she tries and doesn't always succeed at saving the lives of the people who call...because they commit suicide with her on the phone, she can't locate the address, etc.
This book isn'
...more
Joanna
I usually shy away from memoirs, they are generally poorly written because the author isn't a "real" author. I felt that this one did a pretty good job. It was a mostly easy read (a few parts were confusing, mostly the police dispatch language) and I actually found the writing style entertaining! I like this gal, she's been through crap, but she's still got spunk!

I enjoyed reading about 911 calls, a job I've always been interested in. It sounds brutal!

My only complaint:
*****WARNING*****.
There
...more
Veronica Noechel
Quick, interesting book. I read it on the kindle so I don't know how many pages it's comprised of, but it reads more like a well written essay or a really great Harpers article or something. If you've ever wondered what it's like to answer the phones at your 911 call center, spend a couple of hours with Caroline Burau. I'm also a big fan of knowing what it's like to be the person I may ask for help from sometime, before I need to ask. Like, apparently I was right to call 911 the time I found a d ...more
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Caroline Burau lives in White Bear Lake, Minnesota with her husband, three cats, and one nervous yellow lab.
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“My mind is a dangerous place to be alone without supervision.” 6 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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