San Diego dispatcher honored for saving woman's life

Posted at 4:49 PM, May 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 19:51:03-04

San Diego Police 9-1-1 dispatchers are trained to deal with all kinds of emergencies. 10News recently got a rare look inside the operation.

Dispatchers put up with a lot of non-emergency calls, such as people upset that their fast food order is wrong.

"A lot of the times, the restaurants won't give them the food that they ordered," said dispatcher Sebastian, who asked that we only use his first name.

They're also skilled in knowing the difference between a prank and a plea for help being disguised as an order for food.

"The people that are talking in code, they're very monotone sometimes, It's almost very stagnant in their voices," said Sebastian, who asked us to only use his first name.

A PSA about domestic violence highlighted one of those coded calls during a Superbowl Ad. In the ad, the caller says she wants to order a pizza. The dispatcher asks her if she knows she's calling 9-1-1 and does she have an emergency. She says yes. Here is how the conversation went: 

Dispatcher: "911, where is your emergency?"

Caller: "123 Main St."

Dispatcher: "Ok, what's going on there?"

Caller: "I'd like to order a pizza for delivery." 

Dispatcher: "Ma'am, you've reached 911"

Caller: "Yeah, I know. Can I have a large with half pepperoni,half mushroom and peppers?"

Dispatcher: "Ummm…. I'm sorry, you know you've called 911 right?"

Caller: "Yeah, do you know how long it will be?"

Dispatcher: "Ok, Ma'am, is everything ok over there? Do you have an emergency?"

Caller: "Yes, I do."

Dispatcher: "..and you can't talk about it because there's someone in the room with you?" 

Caller: "Yes, that's correct. Do you know how long it will be?"

Dispatcher: "I have an officer about a mile from your location. Are there any weapons in your house?"

Caller: "Nope."

Dispatcher: "Can you stay on the phone with me?"

Caller: "Nope. See you soon, thanks"

The dispatchers are trained to ask questions that will generate a "yes" or "no" answer in a situation where a caller can't speak freely.

Sebastian and another dispatcher were awarded "call of the year" after taking a call from a woman who couldn't say why she needed help.

The woman had been beaten and was being held against her will by a man she barely knew. Somehow, she convinced the man to let her call her boyfriend so he wouldn't worry about her. Instead, she called 9-1-1.

A female dispatcher took the initial call but quickly realized if the abusive man heard a female voice the caller would be in even more danger, that's when she got Sebastian's attention.

"My other dispatcher flagged me down and said hey, I need you to plug in she says she's talking to her boyfriend," said Sebastian. "He was basically yelling at her a lot, and he was trying to yell at me, basically trying to figure out who I was. The more that I was on the phone talking to him the less he was doing to her." 

He was able to keep the suspect on the phone long enough for police to get there. The woman went to the hospital with a broken nose and other injuries.

Sebastian is passionate about his work.

"That's the main reason that I get up in the morning and come in here," He said. "No one calls 9-1-1 when they're having a good day and I like to think that I am a nice person and a very helpful person,"