Relaxation pod offers Augusta dispatchers a mental escape

AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Dispatchers are the first, first responders.

54,685 9-1-1 calls to the Augusta Dispatch Center in 2019.

They answer chaotic calls, keeping folks calm under extreme circumstances.

Brodie Hinckley with the Department of Public Safety says, "Every time they answer the phone, it's pretty much the worst day of somebody's life. So, they're dealing with emergencies every single day, non-stop."

"We also dispatch, we answer 9-1-1 calls, we answer non-emergency business line calls, and we do all of it all at the same time."

That can take a toll on one's mental health.

With dispatchers glued to their seats for hours, many dispatch centers are now offering relaxation rooms.

Augusta just didn't have the space, so they came up with something else.

Hinckley says, "It's an energy pod or relaxation pod as I like to call it. The intention of that is just to get them out of that seat and get them somewhere where they can relax and check out for 20 minutes."

Brenda McGuire, an Emergency Communication Specialist says, "This gives us a chance to recharge so that we can be at our best to do our jobs."

Relaxation rooms and pods like these aren't the only ways our state is trying to recognize our dispatchers. The state is now offering new dispatchers a retirement plan.

Hinckley says, "They have a 25 year and out which will start on July 31st."

The hope is this incentive will help keep good dispatchers on the job for their entire careers.

Hinckley says, "You don't see emergency telecommunicators retiring from this job. It's just a very stressful and very hard job."