A fire, a heart attack, a vehicle collision and a woman in labor who can’t get to the hospital in time are a few of the many kinds of situations that can trigger a 911 call. Here in Santa Clara, a 911 call goes to a public safety dispatcher at the communication center in the Santa Clara Police Department. Recently, the department named Lee Jett the Dispatcher of the Year. Having served for 25 years as an SCPD public safety dispatcher, Jett will be honored at an April 15 awards banquet recognizing Dispatchers of the Year throughout Santa Clara County.
“The most rewarding part of being a dispatcher is helping people when they call for assistance, and also helping someone with a medical emergency,” says Jett. “We deal with medical emergencies on the phone and sometimes we have to help the callers until the fire department gets there.”
Jett holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration of Justice from Golden Gate University. He also studied medical dispatching and police dispatching at Evergreen Valley College – on top of studying fire dispatching through the fire-training program at the Santa Clara Fire Department. While serving in the U.S. Air Force’s military police, Jett dispatched military police units at the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield. He was also a police officer in Daly City for four years. When he is not working, Jett enjoys running, biking and reading books in the military thriller genre.
Jett’s work shift begins early in the morning. During his shift, he and his team wait for phone calls. Jett works to efficiently manage his conversations with distressed callers so they can get the help they need. For example, he learns the callers’ names so he can use their names to form a connection.
During this year, Jett received two Letters of Commendation from the SCPD. Last year, the Santa Clara Fire Department gave him two Life Saving awards for his support of two heart attack victims.
“A wife called and said her husband fainted in the bathroom and wasn’t breathing,” Jett says. “So I gave her instructions for CPR and on giving chest compressions and we kept going until the fire department arrived. The woman’s husband survived. He was transported to the hospital and came home a day or two later in good shape. Last year someone had cardiac arrest at the Costco on Coleman. I gave instructions for CPR and [the person on the phone] continued with that until the fire department arrived. The person was transported to the hospital and released days later.”
While Jett deeply appreciates being named Dispatcher of the Year, he modestly points out that he is not solely responsible for helping to save people’s lives.
“We give instructions but it’s the people on the other end of the line doing the work who are the real heroes,” he says. “So I give them all the credit. I’m just telling them what to do.”