Ballarat, Australia, Nov 30, 2020 -- Helping to deliver babies and making car crash scenes safe wasn't what Dylan Collis had in mind when he took a job at the Triple Zero call centre in Mount Helen.
"It's a job for someone who wants to help people on almost a spiritual level," he said.
The Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, or ESTA, is on the lookout for the next crop of calltakers and dispatchers, to help people from across Victoria in their most difficult moments.
The job sounds deceptively simple - people phone Triple Zero, and calltakers help them work out which emergency service they might need, then dispatchers send out the services.
But in the course of a day, all sorts of incidents unfold.
Mr Collis works as a police and ambulance calltaker, and has been working at the site for seven years after taking a job while studying nursing and counselling.
"When you get a call, your first response is to ask them what happened - you've got literally seconds to decide what emergency they're in, and what help they need dispatched," he said.
"It's really funny when you reflect back on it, and you realise you can make these snap decisions within a few seconds based on really limited information."
While talking people through giving birth is one of the most "stressful and rewarding" parts of the job - "you're on a high for the whole shift, if not for a couple of weeks, because you've assisted bringing someone into the world," Mr Collis said - 2020 has been as challenging for ESTA staff as anywhere else, with the coronavirus pandemic arriving so soon after the state's horrific bushfires.
"Suddenly we were having to triage people in a whole new way, because we'd never, in modern times, seen a pandemic like this, at least not one that spread so fast," he said.
"I helped lead an implementation of pandemic triaging here - we did the training for all our staff to assist in how to triage the pandemic, because COVID-19 presents with symptoms that are similar to anything between shortness of breath to cardiac issues.
"That was a challenge in itself, getting people to re-train themselves almost to now identify when they may or may not have COVID when they might have thought they just had chest pain or breathing problems."
Mr Collis said he was well-supported by counsellors and peer support teams, but people thinking of taking on the challenge need to be resilient.
"It's not for someone who just wants to come into the office, go home, and not think about what they've done - the first thing I would always encourage people to consider when they're applying here is to make sure you're resilient, and make sure you know how to check yourself when your resilience is wearing out," he said.
"It's a great career, and the best part about working at ESTA is you don't need prior knowledge, we'll teach you everything you need to know if you're a successful applicant, but you need to be aware of your own mental health and be passionate about helping people.
"I think my biggest thing for anyone interested in triple zero is always be a positive person, be flexible, and to the best of your ability, be self-aware."
Another tip - if you ever need to phone Triple Zero, make sure you know where you are, he added.
"If you know where you are, we can get you help."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
About Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority:
ESTA operates three State Emergency Communications Centres, located in the Melbourne CBD, East Burwood, and Ballarat.
Published: Wednesday, December 2, 2020
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