Feb. 9, 2022

Your Worst Day! Is Our Everyday! Ricardo Martinez CEO & Founder Within the Trenches Media


In this episode, we have Ricardo Martinez II, the founder, and CEO of Within the Trenches Media. He is also the person behind the #IAM911. And that hashtag trended worldwide after he made this statement, "I heard your last breath, the night you flipped your four-wheeler," we're going to go into what that means. 

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Why is there a need to reclassify the dispatcher position;
  • Why dispatchers are under-appreciated and what to do to make them feel connected to the team;
  • Can anybody be a dispatcher;
  • How to deal with internal struggles triggered by other person's stories, bad calls, and job-related factors;
  • How the Within the Trenches Media helps the dispatcher community through blogging and podcasting;
  • And many more!

Within the Trenches Media
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

ABOUT THE GUEST

Ricardo Martinez II
Founder

Ricardo Martinez II is the host and creator of Within the Trenches, a podcast based on the experience of being a 9-1-1 dispatcher. He is a former 9-1-1 dispatcher and supervisor of 13 years and is the head of Within the Trenches Media. In August of 2016, Ricardo started the #IAM911 movement that spread from the United States to Canada, the U.K., New Zealand and Australia. It’s popularity and success has brought the Thin Gold Line into the spotlight and has opened the eyes of millions to what 9-1-1 dispatchers deal with on a daily basis.

Email: wttpodcast@gmail.com
Within the Trenches Media: https://www.withinthetrenches.net/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/911podcast
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WithinTheTrenchesPodcast/


Transcript

Jerry D. Lund  
Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week's episode of Enduring the Badge Podcast. I'm your host Jerry Dean Lund, and I don't want you to miss an upcoming episode. So please hit that subscribe button. And while your phones out, please do me a favor and give us a review on iTunes or Apple podcasts. It says, "Hey, this podcast has a great message and we should send it out to more people". So please take that 30 seconds to a minute to do that review. And just maybe by doing that, it will push this up into someone's podcast feed that really needs this message. 

On today's episode, I have the founder and CEO of Within the Trenches Media, he's also the person behind the #iam911. And that hashtag trended worldwide after he made this statement, "I heard your last breath, the night you flipped your four wheeler", we're going to go into what that just really means. We're also going to talk about the impact of taking those very difficult calls as a dispatcher and how it takes a toll on your mental health and how you can deal with it. Let's jump right into this episode with Ricardo. How're you doing Ricardo?

Ricardo Martinez  
Doing good? How about you?

Jerry D. Lund  
i'm doing good. We always have these little chats before we start these recordings and stuff like that to get to know each other a little bit better. And then Ricardo and I were just discussing that, you know, the the weather, which is brutally difficult where he's at currently. And it's just cold around that he's in the middle of Snowmageddon.

Ricardo Martinez  
Yes, yeah. Yeah, the weather's always good icebreaker, no pun intended. There's a lot of snow that's coming down right now that that brightness that you see behind me is not just, you know, daytime, that's a lot of snow that's coming out there.

Jerry D. Lund  
Yeah. Ricardo, tell the audience a little bit about yourself.

Ricardo Martinez  
So as, as Jerry said here, my name is Ricardo Martinez. I'm the founder of Within the Trenches Media, which is a, it's a media company that's kind of built around public safety, and really comes from a podcast that I started called Within the Trenches where I share stories, dispatch stories, you know, the ones that you don't really hear about, but also, you know, it's a therapeutic way for those dispatchers to get some of those stories out. I'm also the founder of the I AM 911 movement, which is a movement that was originally I started to raise awareness of the reclassification issue because 911 dispatchers as of right now, are classified under the clinical class versus the protective with the rest of public safety as first responders. But it quickly turned into peer support. So it was it was a way for dispatchers to anonymously share a lot of their stories, just a glimpse into what it's like to take a phone call and one of the phone calls that they shared, but also may have had, you know, buried for a long time. So there's a lot of different things, as you can see in the back. And for those who are listening who can't see it, though. I've got what some people have said, What's that spaceship that's back there? Well, it's not a spaceship. It's it's my print press. So I do screen printing as well. So that, you know, in a nutshell, is, is what I do.

Jerry D. Lund  
Yeah, kind of a little bit of jack of all trades.

Ricardo Martinez  
I do a few things. I don't get a lot of sleep. But you know, I do a few things. But you know, also, before that time for 13 and a half years, I was now a dispatcher and supervisor right on the line with everybody else.

Jerry D. Lund  
Why is it so important that we reclassify this position?

Ricardo Martinez  
So there's a lot of different, a lot of different answers out there. One of the biggest things really right now as it pertains to this, reclassification is that recognition that, you know, we're all part of the same team for years, you know, 911 dispatch has been just kind of put on the sideline. Let's say, for example, debriefings, you know, a lot of these big calls that come in, you've got all of public safety in there. Except for dispatch. Why is that? Like that? That that? I don't understand? You know, a lot of the conversations early on when I was in dispatch was, well, what do you need to be here for you were not there. You're not a first responder you You did not respond there. So what would you actually deal with? Well, we are actually your field responders we're first to respond technically on the phone. And we're there with those callers throughout the entire call, right might be able to see it and get that closure. But that's not what we get. We don't get that closure. Sometimes if we're able to reach out to someone or someone calls in, they can let us know that. However, a lot of times we don't get that closure. And those voices stay in our head because in our minds. I mean, we can we're piecing together what is going on on the other side, but sometimes what we hear and what is going on is way worse in our head in our imagination than what is actually going on out there. So you know those stick with us for a long time. I've been out of dispatch for eight years now, but the calls that I've taken they're specific ones that will always be there. So with this reclassification, you know, there's there's more that comes in, they're not just that recognition of being part of that first responder group in the protected class. But eventually, you know, there will be other changes when you talk about different benefits, whether it be retirement, or you know, peer support or just other different things, mental health and wellness, there's so much that goes into it. So there's, there's a huge answer there. But this is just some of the some of the pieces that come with that.

Jerry D. Lund  
Yeah, it's, it's a job that is probably not appreciated often, as much as it should be. I know a lot of times on the air will give a thank you or something like that, after we're clearing a call and stuff like that, which is probably not their proper radio etiquette. But I mean, it's, we know, it's a hard job, and they do the best they can with what they have. It's just and like you said, and sometimes they do get left out on the on the briefings or, you know, they they dispatched to a call and they have to jump to another call and have no clue. And that would be really hard, because I know how hard it is sometimes for us to transport some to someone to the hospital. And then we don't get that closure, either or what happened.

Ricardo Martinez  
Yeah, you know, what's, what's funny, though, is that the few debriefings that I was brought in on a few of those, like the fire chief, or someone out EMS, or someone would end up saying, wait a minute, you know, why haven't you guys been here since the beginning? Because you are adding a different aspect to the story that we had no idea about? And, you know, we would sit there and just think that's what we've been wondering as well. Once we got in there, you know, in started adding this other perspective of that call, the we're starting to pull people in more and more and really bridging that gap between, you know, the beginning of that phone call, and when everybody's getting out there.

Jerry D. Lund  
Yeah, I mean, dispatchers are doing the best they can with the information they have. And sometimes we're like, what, this does not make any sense, like what was going on. And like I, I have no idea what their information they're getting on the other hand, but we're like, what we want perfect information on our side, you know, going to a call, I can't do that.

Ricardo Martinez  
Right. And so so here's, so here's something to think about. So while while I'm on the phone, I'm listening to not only my caller, but I'm listening to everything that's happening in the background of that call, just in case something sounds off. Right. At the same time, I'm listening to the main radio person who's talking with all the responders that are going out there that law enforcement, that would be because I'm also listening to EMS and fire. But I'm listening to that main law enforcement radio, so that if they ask a question, I can on the fly, just yell it out and respond while still typing it in for them to get it on their on their laptop, but yelling it out. So they have it at that moment. So any other question that they're asking, I'm also listening to that. So call it dispatch ear. So you're listening to everything that is going on to get that perfect information as fast as possible.

Jerry D. Lund  
Right. I know. And sometimes we have an MDT that shows like the the notes from dispatch and in are like, what are they trying to say? Like, what were they were they trying to type in these notes, and I'm like, "Guys, just like, they were expecting them to be perfect with their typing". And like when they're doing all this other stuff, and they surely won't want me on the other end of typing the notes into the system and spitting them out to the fire department or police agency. And they'll be like, "Well, I have no idea what this person is saying from dispatch".

Ricardo Martinez  
A lot of times, we put in exactly what the person is saying, "Yeah, I guess it's some of it". You know, you have someone who's calling in and they're swearing, and they're saying, well, this person said this, and they're saying exactly what it is. And it's kind of vulgar, but we put it in there. And and sometimes, you know, people will send messages back, I remember people would send messages back saying, "Why did you put everything in there?" That's what they told me. This goes to court. That's exactly what they said. I'm just trying to help you.

Jerry D. Lund  
Right. Right. Right. So in dispatch been like such a forgotten kind of member of the team. What do you recommend like that other agencies do to kind of pull them in to be more part of the debriefings, or more, feel more connected maybe to the departments?

Ricardo Martinez  
Well, you know, I think so, for a lot of the training that I did, especially in the last center that I was in, towards the end of my career. It was the center that I grew up in as well or the county rather the county that I grew up in, I work for that that dispatch center. So I was dispatching that county. And so I knew a lot of people I knew a lot of different things that were going on there. But I guess to bridge that gap even more. In training, we do a lot of ride alongs. So let's, let's switch it, you know there towards the end of my dispatching career, the sheriff's department actually was doing that they would have some of the newer deputies come in and sit there and really get what it's like now, sometimes there wouldn't be anything going on and they would just be chilling, they're like this is it like, No, this is not a true depiction of what dispatch is, it hits the fan sometimes, and a lot of times, and then you don't know. So then, you know, once that would happen, they'd be just sitting there in awe of what, what it's like, so then a lot of those would go back and share that information with their co workers. And then we would get, you know, pulled into a lot more things. Because they would start to understand that we're not just answering the phone, that there's way more to what it is that we do. And it's not just the we're answering the phone, we're on the radio, we're also trying to eat at the same time taking extra phone calls, putting people on hold, and just a cycle for hours. So once they, they get that taste, they end up like I said, spreading the word, like we should pull them in more onto this, I think in a way to be more part of the team. You know, let's, let's bring more of those folks in for either meetings or the briefings on our end, so that you know what it was like in dispatch during that time. And we can learn more from each other. Because, you know, we are all good at communications, but when we communicate with each other not that great, right?

Jerry D. Lund  
Yeah, yeah, that's always the like, number one thing that comes out on I feel like on every call is like communication, somewhere along the line, we could have communicated better or communications is totally, totally broke down. To be a dispatcher, like you're saying, there's a lot of multitasking, and we talked about typing and answering the phone and stuff like that. Can anybody be a dispatcher?

Ricardo Martinez  
You know, I think there's, it takes a special person. Yeah, it takes a special person to be able to do a lot of stuff in public safety, but especially in dispatch, because there'll be some people who will come in and, you know, they, they feel like they're, they're gonna be able to just do it and just get in there. And they, they pick up on the geography, they pick up on the codes, you know, they've got the memorization down. However, when you get to that phone call, and it's real, that's when a lot of people end up saying, deuces.

Jerry D. Lund  
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Ricardo Martinez  
Like no, this is not for me. And I remember specifically, someone coming in. And we had one time where we had nine people that were coming in like we were very short staffed. And it's still like that now it's like that everywhere, right? Yeah, shortly after. But during this time, one of the the candidates that was coming in, he was related to one of the deputies. And he had been reserved deputy and you know, just doing all this other stuff. And he wanted to give dispatch a shot. But the approach was, I've got this, like I understand everything I know it's gonna be great. And that was one of the people who ended up taking that first phone call and was like, "Nah, I didn't know that it was gonna be like this". And so like when I started, I started in 2001. This was Central Florida. And I I ended up visiting my mom and my siblings. Just for a couple of weeks, it was only going to be like a two week vacation for me. And it ended up turning into a three and a half year stay. I ended up staying there. I got my job there. And the thing for me though, when I got started, they were what I the first trainer told me was it takes being human. First off, first and foremost. Yeah, being human basically having common sense and you know, kind of having that thick skin and just kind of jumping in and doing it because when when I went in for that first interview, I mean, I didn't have any experience or anything with public safety. I only had Retail Management underneath my belt there. But in a way customer service having people pissed off at you. When it doesn't when things don't go right for them. You know, that's that's some good training there as well for those on the phone and are upset or are going through the worst time in their life. You know, so I'm, I'm in Florida my mom tells me that my cousin her her husband knows the chief of police and I'm like, oh, cool, great for her and no, I'm telling you this because you should try working there. They're they're hiring dispatches right now. And I remember saying to my mom, I, I've watched rescue 911. It was one of my favorite shows. I did William Shatner, but I don't know what they do. Yeah, I have no idea. So I went in, and I sat down with the chief and Lieutenant. And they're just firing questions back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And thinking about it now, they were doing it on purpose to see if I could handle the pressure of what was going on. But at the time, I didn't think about that. I just thought, oh, man, I'm pretty awesome. I'm keeping. But that's not what it was. There was there was something else going on there. They were testing me. It took a couple months for me to find out whether I was going to get this job or not. And one one day at home. I was like, I was dozing off. I was having I was going to take a nap or something. And my grandmother comes into the to the Roma, she spoke very, very little English. So she yelled at me in Spanish saying that the police were there. And then she asked me, "What did you do?" And I was like, "I didn't do anything, I don't think". And so she tells me to go check. And it was the chief of police because I lived right in town right downtown. And he asked me if I still wanted the job. And I said, Well, yeah, I didn't. I didn't think I got it. Because it's been two months since I was there with you guys. And he goes, Well, we just we have a lengthy background check and hiring process. And I said, Oh, okay. Now, a lot of times you think when you get a new job, and you're going to start the following week, or whatever, or at least have a few days. So that's what I had asked. And he goes, No, you start tonight. And I thought he was joking. But he wasn't joking. He's like, dead, dead, dead look in my face. You you want the job, right? And I said, No, no, I do. And he goes, Okay, well, you're working midnight shift tonight. So I went in, and that that first night, my trainer, his name was his first name was Harry. Very awesome, dude. very seasoned dispatcher, I'll put it that way. He was seasoned. And he showed me everything that was there. Now this is 2001. He showed me all the stuff what it what it was for. He took that first 911 call and I observed him. And after that, he goes, it's your turn. Oh, and and I thought this is he's got to be lying. And I remember the Shaka Lang and he goes, No, I'm serious. I said, there's nothing else. There's no other training. And that's when he told me he goes, it takes common sense, some thick skin and being human. And you need to the more that you do this on the job, it becomes a little bit easier. But this is how you do it. So that first call though. Luckily, that first call was just it was it was like a butt dial. It was a miss dial. Thank the Lord for that.

Yeah, that was a that was a long way to answer your question. But still, you know, that's how I started out. And really, you know, that's what it takes to be able to do it. So anyone can do it. I mean, it takes a special person to be able to do it. I'll put it that way. But yeah, my training in the beginning was was that you got to jump in. Now I did have a 40-hour beginner's class later on. And we learned a lot of a lot of good stuff there that I that stuck with me throughout all my time at dispatch. But that's how it was just jumped in. And

Jerry D. Lund    
Yeah, that's pretty. That's pretty crazy for him to show up and say, Hey, you're starting tonight. But awesome in a way too. During your time in dispatch, you've had some difficult calls come in to kind of what would you call them? Maybe a little bit life changing or just altering or?

Ricardo Martinez    
Yeah, so you know, in the beginning, you know, it was a small Police Department, small city in Florida. The city's frostproof. I don't think anyone has ever heard of it. It's in Central Florida. And so it's a small place. There's like two traffic lights and a McDonald's. All right, well, yeah. I mean, there's other stores there. But the main things, you know, you blink and you miss it. So a lot of the calls that came in, they were especially on 911 The way we did it there, because we weren't certified to do medicals, and we could take the beginning of it, and then I would transfer it off to the the County Central Dispatch, and they would do all of the emergency medical dispatch protocols and all of that, those procedures. So we would get those main things in the beginning. And then I would page out for Fire Rescue, which that radio I had to punch in like a five digit code in order to make the the tones go off, which was the craziest thing. Especially because it was 2001. Yeah, but again, small Police Department. It's not all state of the art stuff. So when I was getting ready to be done with training, it was actually the it was actually the first day that I was going to be on my own. I remember the the Chief of Police, he's getting ready to leave. And he says to me, you think you're going to be able to do this? You got this? And I said, Man, I got you like, yeah, of course, they said, guys been trained me, well, everything is gonna be fine. I said, besides you listen to the scanner all the time, live just down the road. So if you hear me struggling, I know you will be here. And he started laughing. And he goes, okay, okay, he goes, All right. And so we were just kind of talking a little bit, and he was getting ready to leave. And we hear a car screech up. Now the small Police Department, you open the door, and it's just a little lobby area. And then like a thin pane of glass. And that's me on the other side.

You could hear everything and you, the person gets out of their car, you hear the door open from the car and just screaming, just screaming. And I remember the both of us just kind of looking at each other and thinking what the hell is going on. And then the door yanks open to the PD. And this lady runs in. Now again, as I said, this, this is a small city. So everyone knows the chief of police. And he pretty much knows everyone. And she comes in and she's just yelling and screaming. And he kind of grabs her by the arms a little bit. And it's just like, what's going on what's going on? And she just keeps yelling, I found him. I found him. And that, in that moment for me, I thought God, you know, I, I thought my first high priority call was gonna be on the phone. Oh, yeah. Because that's my job. You know, that's, that's where it happens is on the phone. But this is face to face. This is right in front of me going on right now. And he knew where she lived, she was just across the street diagonal from where we were at. So I turned out for, for the officer who was working at the time to go out there, he was going to the chief was going to go accompany him. And we had fire rescue and medical that was going to stage in the area. So what had happened was the lady and her husband. They were separated at the time. And they were trying to figure out whether they wanted to continue their marriage. And she had decided, yes, I want to continue our marriage, how I want to make this work. So she goes back to their home. And she found that her husband had hung himself. Oh, man. And and he didn't make it. I'm not sure how long he was there. But the chief is there with the with everyone else. And she's sitting in the lobby, and I'm there. So what do you do next? Well, you you be human, right, just like a human. So I go out to the front and the lobby and I stood there with her. And I asked her if there was anyone that she wanted me to call for her. And she said yes, you know, she had some family. So the family came and they were with her. And then, you know, they laughed a little bit after that. So the chief and the officer come back. And I'm just, I'm there like 911 doesn't stop. So I'm just continue with calls and calls. But at the same time still thinking about this, this whole thing that just happened. Now, obviously, I had closure. I knew what happened. However, there was there was still something that was bothering me and like why, like what, what else was it that made this person just want to go that far. And so it was that was just kind of bothering me. And I remember the the deputy who had been out there officer rather, who had been out there. He was in back with me. And he had the suicide note. And I kept trying to kind of glance at it. And and he noticed and he said do you want to read it? And I said yeah, I said I do. And it was the weirdest thing because I've never had something like that happen before. And I'm trying to process all of this right? I'm new dispatcher, I'm on my own. And this not they don't tell you this, you know, they you go through all types of training, but at least back then now it's different. But back then when I had started, no one told me, You're going to have to deal with this or how to deal with this. It was just you're going to be taking these calls. And you know, however you deal with that is how you deal with it. So, for me, I knew it was going to help me feel a little better, just I guess, knowing that part of the story. So basically what the what the note said was that he was he was heartbroken. And he loved his wife and his kids very much, but that he couldn't go on living, knowing that they were no longer going to be together that he wished that it would have worked out. And after I read that man, all I could think was if you would have if you could have waited just a few minutes longer. I wouldn't be telling this story. Yeah, you'd end up making it and I just, my heart just sank. And I was just there. And I gave him back the letter. And I just said, thanks. And it was that moment that, you know, I really knew what it was that I had gotten into, because I hadn't had any calls like that yet. But that was the biggest one. And it was on my first day of being on my own after training.

Jerry D. Lund    
Yeah, wow, that would be a lot to deal with. Yeah. Especially when I think in our minds, we set ourself up for like, Oh, we're expecting things to happen this way. And we're prepared for that. But when they don't happen that way, we're taking a little bit off guard, and I think it impacts us a little bit more. And suicide is just, it's, you always wonder what led up to the person taking their lives like what pushed him to that, that point, and I could never be in anybody else's shoes. I, you know, have my own story. But it just, it's, it's hard. It's hard, because he sees things like this happen, or super young people taking their lives and you're like, man, what, what was going on in your, in your mind that made you get to this point? And, you know, obviously, as a world as a community, we definitely need to start doing doing better. And it sounds like you're working on some things too, to help dispatchers to better their lives and maintain their optimal mental health. What else are you doing out there for them?

Ricardo Martinez    
Yeah, so you know, for me a lot of these calls in the beginning, I didn't know what to do with them. I didn't know how to handle a lot of it. I was bearing those calls. That's that's the dispatcher that I was in the beginning. I was baring my claws. I wasn't I wasn't talking to anyone about it. But also there wasn't anyone else talking about it, because nobody wants to look weak, right? You don't you don't want to be the one that who is asking for help. And others say, Oh, he can't pack it. You know. And so it's again, it's a lot different now. But in the beginning, you know, I was holding those in. And, you know, I was thinking that I was leaving all of this at work, and coming home and everything being fine. But obviously that wasn't it was not the case. And a lot of people you know, that say and it's not the same for everyone. But there are a lot of people who say just like me, that I was leaving it at work. However, it was BS, because you know, there's so many other things that happen when you're at home, whether it be being distant or being snippy with people. And why is that? Why does that happen? And we don't always want to look in the mirror, right? And realize, Oh, you're the problem? Me? I'm the problem. It's me. Yeah. And so there was a lot of different things that I ended up going through that finally allowed me to start getting these stories out. So you know, I ended up leaving Florida, I moved back home to Southwest Michigan, and I end up dispatching in the county that I grew up in. And I knew everyone, pretty much on the west side, the east side, not so much. But the west side, I knew a lot of people because that's where I grew up. And when my when my grandmother passed away, I was the one who took that phone call. And I remember that that night like she was in hospice care. So we knew she was going to be passing away. You know, it wasn't anything sudden. But what are the odds that I am going to be the one who takes that call, right? I'm working backup phones and backup radios. And I remember my partner on Main phones ends up saying I'm going to go to this about three in the morning. And she says I'm going to go to the break room to get something I said, Yeah, go ahead. There's nothing going on anyway, which is inviting something to happen. You're putting that out in the universe. Hey, let's all right, we'll make something happen for you. So yeah. So she ends up going and no later did the door shut to the break room, the phone rang. Now, I never hesitate to pick up the phone. And our old phone system that we had, they have a different one there now. But the one that we had, if the phone rings and you pick up the handset right away. You can hear everything like a speakerphone mode that's going on. So if you would pick up that phone and it was like a domestic or a medical and people are screaming, everybody was at alert. Everybody knew because they could hear that. Well, if you waited just for one ring, all the information would show up on the screen. And for whatever reason when that phone rang, like the hair on the back of my neck stood up, it just felt different. And I waited to see the information on the screen. And it was my mom's cell phone number. It was a Florida number. And I picked it up and you know I said Halligan 911 Where's your emergency? And my cousin. It was her voice and she says Richie, because my family called me Richie. And, and I said yeah, yeah, it is and she goes grandma just died and 

Ricardo Martinez  
And I just remember, my heart sank, but also thinking at the same time again, what are the odds that I would be the one to take this call? Yeah, it was, it was almost it was, it was fitting like it was meant to be. And so I went through everything I had to do, I got to leave, and go be with my family. But you know, my grandmother had been with my parents. Since before my siblings and I were born. So when mine was born, she was there. So it just seemed fitting, though, and in a perfect ending that because she was there for me in the beginning, I would be there for her at the end. And all of this, just sort of building up inside me. And I thought, There's got to be a way for me to get this out. So I ended up, you know, kind of going through a burnout stage. And I loved what I was doing, completely loved it. But with county politics, as a lot of people know. And other things going on, it was just kind of made for a toxic environment a little bit, you know, the morale was down. We were short staffed, like everything was just crazy. So I was trying to find a way to rekindle this love for 911 that I had. And I went back to school. And during that time, I ended up getting three different degrees. And all of the main projects that I was doing, had to do with public safety. It had to do with 911. And it also helped me to get my stories out. So I started blogging. And when I started blogging, I was I was sharing stories, I was sharing my calls. And I remember telling my deputy director what I was going to do, and I was a supervisor at the time. And she goes, No, don't do that. You probably shouldn't do that, because we're going to get sued. And I said, Well, I was there too. I was part of that call. And really all I'm doing is sharing my side what it was like, I'm trying to get this out. I said it's been therapeutic for me to do this. And I think people will get something out of it as well. I'm not using any names, addresses, nothing like that. And she still said no. And I remember I left I was walking out and then I poked my head back into her office. And I said, didn't you tell us last week in our supervisors meeting, that you guys can regulate our feelings online? And she goes, Well, yeah. And I said, well, thank you. That's fine. I started I started blogging about it, and and sharing my experience. And people started reading it. And they were getting stuff out of it. They were learning. They were also learning that if you call 911. And I put you on hold, it's not because I don't want to help you. It's because 911 doesn't stop and your emergency isn't the only emergency going on. Yeah. And so it was it was helping. And then other dispatchers were getting into it as well. And then in my Master's of new media journalism, they introduced us into podcasting. And I fell in love with that form of storytelling. And I thought, you know, if I can share my story, it'd be therapeutic. Maybe it'll help others as well. So dispatcher were coming on. They were sharing their stories. And it just, there was so much that was coming in, or coming from it rather. And some of the deputies, one of them specifically, who is he's a former Marine, and just real, you know, tough gruff type person. And, and he would be that way with us on the radio or on the phone. And I remember he sent me a message over the, the his MCT. And he says, you know, man, he says, You need to keep doing what you're doing. He said, Because I learned more about dispatch in these first three episodes than I ever knew in the 20 years that I've been doing this keep doing it. And I thought, if I can reach him, yeah, then there's has to be something more that's going on. So you know, to answer what it is that I'm doing. It's been that it's been helping dispatchers share their stories, whether it be on the podcast, or anonymously through the I AM 911 movement it was it was a movement that I started as I said earlier, that this started in 2016 as part of a way to raise awareness for that reclassification issue, but quickly turned into peer support, because there were dispatchers who were sending in messages saying I have been holding in this call for so long, and now I have an outlet to be able to do it anonymously. And it has helped immensely to be able to do this. Thank You Another person said that their hands were still shaking after typing the story because that call had been just plaguing them for so long. And they finally got it out. And they felt good and it's It felt good to be able to give back in that sense to give dispatchers some sort of platform to share those stories they've been holding on for so long.

Jerry D. Lund  
When you hold on to a story that long what kind of like internal I'm gonna say damaged but that's not really not the right word. Like what kind of internal struggles are going on when you're holding in those those stories like that?

Ricardo Martinez  
So let me give you a good example. And this one has to do with a trigger. Because a lot of us have those, and we don't realize that we've been holding on to something. Yeah, you're holding on to something until it happens. So, so 2016, I'm in Florida for a national public safety conference. Well, for 911 and such, and this whole reclassification issue had really hit a peak. But one of the things that I saw that these two main organizations for  911, were were asking for a word or like some sorts of stories to go along with this to somehow raise awareness. And I thought, Well, I've been telling stories for years now. So maybe I'm going to insert myself into this battle. But I want to do it a different way. Like I want it to be raw, I want it to be eye opening, and I want to share a glimpse into one story, one call that I had, and see if other dispatchers will do it as well. And that's where the I AM 911 movement was born as #iam911. And the the first one that I put out there, and it was it was one of my calls. And it just simply said, I heard your last breath. The night you flipped your four wheeler, #iam911. And and it was a meme. It was it was you know, just it's it was dark. It was nighttime, and it was a full moon and it and I have that on there. And I asked other dispatchers to do the same thing. And they did. They were sharing stories like it exploded, it was enough to where it ended up going around the world where it wasn't just us sharing I am 911, those in Canada were sharing their 911 as well. But they were sharing their stories. And then it ended up going over to the UK. And they were they were sharing theirs with their callsign or their phone number. I am 999 and the New Zealand I am 111 in Australia I am 000 So people were sharing and sharing stories. It was like the whole thing Goldline, unified, to share these stories to show what it is that we go through. And it just it exploded. And it's been going on ever since sharing these stories. But a few days later, after I started this. During that time, Stranger Things was a big show that was going on right on Netflix. It was season one, and I was binging it like crazy. And for what if you haven't watched it yet? For this this one episode, I won't say which episode but one of the episodes spoiler alert. There's there was a part where the the sheriff is helping out the mom of like the kid that goes missing. And when they find him, he's laying there unconscious. And the the sheriff is giving him CPR. And I am bawling. Like just crying. And I've got my hand because everybody was asleep. This was late at night. So everyone is asleep. And I'm trying not to wake anybody up but I'm like kind of biting my hand and but then I'm, I'm thinking at the same time. Why am I crying right now? Yeah, it's a it's a hard scene and everything. But what is going on? What is deeper that's going on here? Well, then I realized that call that I shared. I heard your last breath tonight you flip your four wheeler. When I was taking that call, I was helping the parents with their teenager to do CPR. And I could hear on the main law enforcement radio. The deputy the first deputy who showed up there as medicals trying to get out there. And I hear him over the radio as he's running, saying I'm on scene I'm running to them now. And then I couldn't put the phone down like the the parents had put the phone down and I was just listening. And I hear the deputy get there. And he starts saying Come on, buddy. Come on. Come on. Well, in that scene of that show, he's doing the exact same thing. Wow. And I'm watching this play out as I'm remembering that call that happened. And as you were asking you know what is what is that like? What is it that you know that that's really going on you know mentally emotionally and everything when you're holding on to a call I didn't realize that that call had affected me that much was that there was that much impact until that moment so

I had been holding that in I shared a glimpse and then that glimpse and watching that really brought it back and I I'm glad that it happened because I'm able to share that story with somebody other dispatchers now to say if you're holding in some of these calls, if you haven't, you know shared them with anyone or written them down at least, this might happen. And you might end up having some sort of trigger and you're not going to know why. Yeah, but you eventually will like, like me, like, I just I didn't know, I didn't know why I was bawling. And then I realized, Oh, I'm watching this call that I had taken play out right in front of me and it, and it hit me hard.

Jerry D. Lund  
I wouldn't be surprised if, excuse me, if anybody as a first responder didn't have any triggers. Right? Quite honestly. I mean, I excuse me, um, yeah, I mean, I have my own too. You know, for me, it's really big, just the screening of a parent, or children sometimes just takes me back to a lot of those, a lot of those calls. And most of the time, those calls are happened to be suicide calls, or parents found their, you know, their son or daughter, like, you know, from hanging or something like that. And just that screaming and crying and commotion, you know, if I hear that at home, sometimes it's like, it takes me right back, though a lot of those a lot of those calls for a split second, and it's just, it's hard. It's, you know, and you go through therapy and, you know, do different different types of things. But I don't know if that type of stuff will ever really lead I think lessons as you probably don't distance yourself from, you know, your job and stuff might lessen. But I think there's, there's still be there to some some degree.

Ricardo Martinez  
Yeah, so I, and I think for me, too, is because I'm still, you know, doing things in public safety, like my dispatch career was 13 and a half years, but full time for all around and public safety altogether, it's been about 20 years now, that I have, which is something that I never thought that that I would be doing. But it's it's been, it's been really good to be able to do all of this, you know, there's, there are, there are some good triggers as well on some of these. And, you know, one of the calls I taken once, before I say that, call me, let me let me preface this with a little more information. So during my time in dispatch, I was dealing with a lot of neck pain and back pain. And I mean, we're sitting there forever. And sometimes you don't get a chance to get up and walk around when when you do get a chance, it's usually either to use the bathroom or get something to eat. And that's about it. But I was dealing with a lot of this, this back pain and neck pain, and I could not get it to go away. And I wasn't I was trying to figure everything out that I could do. And finally, something that I that I ended up doing that I never thought I was going to do. But also because I was it was my own fear that I was going to be made fun of if I did a pose wrong, and it was yoga, I got into yoga, and just one session of yoga, that first session alleviated me of that pain that I was having. And it was amazing. And, you know, I've been practicing it ever since. So I also feel like a lot of experiences that we've had in our lives can also help in certain situations, some of those calls that I've taken, I feel like those were meant for me because whatever I might have dealt with, or experienced in my life in the past or whichever, also helped me with those calls, because I was able to relate to those people a little more than somebody else who might not have had that experience. So I end up getting this phone call. And this this lady is suicidal. And she's telling me about all this back pain that she's been having, and that it's just so horrible and debilitating that she, she just she doesn't want to live anymore. Nothing helps. She doesn't want to live anymore. And I remember I had a trainer, and I would observe some of his phone calls. And whenever he would have a suicidal caller with him, he would be human. And he would start asking questions like, What is your favorite music? What are your favorite movies and you know, just kind of relating and talking until help got there to get their mind off of what they wanted to do. So I did the same thing. And I took a shot. And I told her about my back pain about my neck pain that I could relate to her. And she asked me what I did to help. And I told her about yoga. And we were just talking about it and help got there. And at the at the very end. She said thank you for the information, and that she didn't want to kill herself anymore. That now she had a different option, a different path. And every time I practice yoga, I think about that person. That's a good trigger.

Jerry D. Lund  
Yeah, that is that is. I'm glad you brought that up. That is that is a great trigger. And that is that right? You're the perfect example like you're talking about just being human and just some people just need empathy, like they're having a medical problem. And the biggest thing they need is just your empathy. And that can just take them from the state of wherever they're into a different state and more a better state. I've seen it happen quite often. Some, some people are way better at it than others. But yeah, I think empathy goes a long, long ways. Yeah. And yoga is awesome. Like, it's, it's great for so many different things, your breath or you know, the flexibility and just being present in that moment. Do you by chance, have you read the book, Your Body Keeps the Score?

Ricardo Martinez  
No, but tell me about this.

Jerry D. Lund  
It's a really long book. It's like 16 hours on Audible. But it's basically how your body holds the different traumas that you go through so that back and neck pain could be contributed to some of the other traumas that you've been through, not actual physical traumas, but like mostly emotional traumas. And your body is finding that spot to hold that pain until you work kind of through the the emotional aspect of it, and then your body kind of just releases releases that. It's, yeah, it's pretty fascinating. I do I do, I really do believe that there's a lot of science coming out about that is like, you get that adrenaline rush. And then what does your body do without adrenaline? Especially if you get like that adrenaline rush? And it's like, oh, cancel a call, or it's no big deal? Or maybe I was a dispatcher. When the first every time and I answer the phone be like, hello, then I'd have this adrenaline rush, you know. So I think it just, it's there's a lot of science that's out there that I wish I just started moving forward into more of a acceptable mainstream by first responders. My my biggest goal, and I think part for you are to is just like, have these people, you know, they're in these careers have long, healthy careers. We have a long and healthy career, your service to the community and to your family, and to everybody else is so much better.

Ricardo Martinez 
Yeah, no, I and I believe it to man, there's there's a lot that I've done, especially as you're talking about that breath work that was in, if I could go back in time and talk to myself, I would tell myself to get into that way sooner. Because having that that ability, it will and learning about breath work, it helped keep me even more calm on the phone walls. Chaos, complete chaos is going on on the other end. And just you know, as we were kind of talking a little bit, you know, when you have someone calling in, just the tone of your voice can completely change that call. Oh, yeah. And, and I know a lot of people watching and listening this, you know, you've you've seen a lot of, you know, news stories where someone is just being insured on the phone. And, but you know, some of the some of those that I ended up hearing about, like, I it makes me wonder, though, not that it's any excuse at all, for anyone being rude on the phone. But I always wonder about what call they took after or before the one call, that was the bad one, because you never know. And again, not that it's an excuse or anything, but that person could have been giving CPR and someone's infant and that infant didn't make it. And we don't get a break. You go on to the next one. Again, that's not an excuse at all, because there's no excuse for anyone being rude on the phone. But again, it just in that tone, man, just the tone of voice. That could be the first time someone is calling. And if you have a crappy tone, they're probably never going to call again.

Jerry D. Lund    
Yeah, yeah, I just was thinking about some of those things. You're just saying that we expect everybody to be so perfect. And we want to be perfect on every call or answering every phone call and things like that. But it's like what happened to the call before or maybe what happened to that person before they came to work? We're human too. We have all those same struggles that anybody has in their households or out of their households. We have those two. And we try our best to bring our best us to every call and every you know, answer every phone call and things like that. But sometimes, you know, it you just don't you just don't bring it. I don't know, like I said it. And I think it's just there's so much pressure to be perfect in this in these career fields that sometimes it's hard to live up to that pressure of trying to be perfect on every call or answering every phone call.

Ricardo Martinez   
Yeah, so here's here's a here's a story for you. So you talk about wanting to be perfect on every call. This was probably the last week I was in dispatch and man it felt like the dispatch gods were hitting me like you're you're out the door. Okay, we're gonna hit you with every bad call that's that we can get you with. And this call started out is just it was a disorderly subject. Everything was for a disorderly complaint. But at the very end, my caller says I think he's suicidal as well. Um, that information, maybe you should have told me first, because that completely changes the call. Right? That completely changes it, the response, everything. So I already had the person's name, the car, you know, description, phone number, everything I hang up with her. And I yell out, I think my call my, the person that we're looking for is suicidal, and I tried to call him, and it was so busy in there. I call this person and it's ringing and ringing, and another call comes in, and it's ringing and it's ringing, and I'm looking around, and it's so busy, nobody can, nobody can take it because we were right at shift change. And for whatever reason, it seems like people sometimes wait until they get out of work, all hell to break. I'm trying to get a hold of this person. And finally, I hang up and pick up the line that had had already run like three or four times. And I said my thing and the person says, I just saw a vehicle, run itself right into a tree. And I thought, Oh, God, please don't be the person that I was trying to call just now. And I asked, you know, I got the location and everything. And I'm looking at the map. And it's not far from the house where this call, the first call originated. And I asked if the person could safely go up to see if the person was okay. And because you don't, you don't ever want to create more victims or anything, right? You don't want to get in your house in danger. So I was asking the person, if it's safe enough, can you go and see if this person is okay. And then give me more information. And I remember the person saying, sir, I don't I don't think there's any way that this person could have lived through this. Because but I'll go look, I can I can look, there's no flames or nothing like that. And I said, What kind of car is it? And when he said it, I remember I lipped it. And it was a blue, Toyota Tercel. And I thought, crap, and I think this is the person. And so I ended up you know, we end up switching and they get out there. And sure enough, it was it was the person that I was trying to call to get over there. And that one messed me up enough that I was second guessing. Everything that I had asked, you know, did I have enough time. So it was enough that I took almost 30 minutes, I was a supervisor, so and I had backups. So everybody was doing other calls and everything else and I had enough time to look at the map, I was mapping it out. And I was seeing how that you know, the distance, the time that I ended up calling, like what I have had a chance to get to that person to stop what happened. And it messed me up. Because I just kept going back and forth and back and forth. And finally, you know, speaking to other people as well, there's nothing I could have done, the person was already going, probably going into the tree, as I was calling the person, you know that they they never even got the call because it was already had already happened. But it took me a while to get through that and really try to get in my head that there was nothing else I could do.

Jerry D. Lund    
Yeah, that would be hard. There's probably a lot of situations as a dispatcher that may happen like that, over your career, it seems like where you just tried to do as much as you can, but you can't just act fast enough or can't stop somebody from, you know, their their plan of doing what they want to do. What do you recommend for dispatchers to do when they're struggling with, you know, a call like that?

Ricardo Martinez  
You know, definitely reach out, you know that that stigma is still there a little bit of people not wanting to, to look weak, but it's not weak. When you're when you're asking for help, there's actually courage in that because you whatever you do, will end up rubbing off on others and they'll see okay, they were strong enough to ask for help, but it is okay not to be okay. We can do this, like in support of each other, we can find some sort of healing and comfort in, in sharing stories. You know, that's the first step to healing really is opening up and sharing that story it for me. And again, it might not be like this for everyone, but from my experience me personally, but also talking with people over the years, since doing everything that I do. That has been the first step is is talking with someone, whether it be a family member or someone who you work with, especially someone that you work with, because they understand it more, unless, of course your family member is from public safety than they then they know but you know, for me talking to family. I would share a story and they would just kind of sit there like what do I say next? Like oh, I'm sorry. Oh, that's okay. And then you know, I'm just kind of they're like, alright, we move on. You know, the one of the biggest things is to share that story to be able to to open up and as you asked earlier, so one of the other things that I doing to help dispatchers is, I have a session that I do at conferences. I've done this virtually as well. However, at conferences, I started this in 2017. And it's it's a session that's called Imagine Listening, because it's exactly what I want people to do is imagine listening to something like this. So it's imagine listening, your worst days are every day. And it's, it's with, it's with a live audience. It's also a podcast episode, but it's just their voices, no names, nothing like that. Because these stories are so powerful and impactful. A lot of people have been learning from them. So I give dispatcher the opportunity to share one of their I Am 911 stories. And they get to either say it out loud, or they can write it down, and I read it for them. And I can't, I can't even explain what it is like to be in there with a few 100 people sharing stories, stories that people have held in for such a long time, however, knowing that they're in a safe place, and that those that they're sharing with, they know exactly what it is like. And, you know, there are some people who are there that don't share any stories at all, and it's fine. They're there in support of their co workers, their thin gold line family. And but it's only for the first 30 minutes. It's an hour long session. But it's only for the first 30 minutes, because the last 30 minutes is open mic. And that's where we share all the funny and outrageous 911 stuff that happens, whether it be incidents that happened to us in the center, or you know, funny phone calls that happen in it's not about, you know, making fun of any callers or anything like that. It's just the situation because a 911 a lot of things, as you know, are things where you think, Is this real life? Like is this really happening? Right? Yeah, yeah, there is. There is a lot of good in 911 and public safety. And that's what that part is, is we start out emotionally intense. But then we end with the funny stuff. So when we leave from there, you know, you feel good and prideful about the job that you do, because not a lot of people can do it. So imagine listening is one of the big things. But I do open mic on a live broadcast as well, where dispatchers come in, I check in with them. How are you doing on a scale of one to 10? We share funny stories, and then we move on. So there's there's there's a you know, power in storytelling. Yes. But also, laughter is good medicine. Yeah. Sometimes you got to do it. You got to find some sort of humor. And, you know, in what we do, or else, you might not make it.

Jerry D. Lund  
Yeah, yeah. That's so true. I do like that setup. I think that's great. Dump some feelings out and then laugh a little that is a that is some great medicine. And it's some informal medicine that happens at you know, the fire department around the dinner table or at lunchtime, that that type of things happen as well, which is super cool. That's always fun. Yeah, yeah. Because you can other people can relate, you know, that you're sharing the stories with and it's just, it's really, I think it's like an informal debriefing sometimes, yeah, like, it's just, and since it's not so formal, that people can just say what they want and joke a little bit and stuff. But I think that's a good way for first responders to deal with that.

Ricardo Martinez  
Yeah, I love it. It's, it's all about that power and storytelling, and a lot of people. You know, they they feel like their story doesn't either it doesn't matter, or they don't have anything to say. And I remember I was in Illinois once. And I had given my, my keynote. And I was talking about, or no, it was the Imagine Listening session, I was a closing speaker, I hadn't done it yet. It was imagine listening was in the middle of the conference. And I remember seeing this girl who was sitting up front, and she was kind of, you know, kind of laughing. She was, you know, emotional, you know, during the emotional part and everything. And she didn't share a story at all. Again, which is fine. Just having that person there. And support is really good. And I went back into the vendor hall where I had set up with a podcast, and I have attendees come in and share their stories and everything. And she she sat down with me, and we didn't record an episode, but she sat down and she goes, You know, I feel like there's something wrong with me because I didn't have a story to share. Like I I'm not like everyone else. I guess I don't keep any of that stuff bottled up. I didn't have anything. And I said, Well, that's okay. You know, you were there and supportive. Everyone. It was fine. We sat there for a little over an hour. And she shared four or five hard stories. And at the end, she goes so yeah, I kind of just kind of feel like, you know, maybe I'm different. I don't have a lot to share. And I said, "Do you realize what we just did right now?". I said, "You just shared with me all of these stories, and how do you feel?" And she goes, I didn't even realize that how long have we been talking here? And I told her and she goes, Well, I guess I did have something to talk about. I do feel good. She goes, I was able to talk about things. And I guess I'd say that because I just want everyone to know that we all have a story to share. And it's an important one, it can be impactful and powerful. And you have no idea. Who will get something out of that. It's it's powerful. Right? Right. A lot of good to it.

Ricardo Martinez  
All of these stories, and how do you feel? And she goes, I didn't even realize that how long have we been talking here? And I told her and she goes, Well, I guess I did have something to talk about. I do feel good. She goes, I was able to talk about things. And I guess I'd say that because I just want everyone to know that we all have a story to share. And it's an important one, it can be impactful and powerful. And you have no idea. Who will get something out of that. It's it's powerful. Right? Right. A lot of good to it.

Jerry D. Lund  
Yeah, it's true. We all do. We all do have stories. And we're all currently living one and building one. And as we go along through in life, Ricardo, where can people find you? So they so if dispatchers are listening to this, that they could look towards you for some more help?

Ricardo Martinez  
For sure. Yeah. So they can find everything on within the trenches.net. It's the it's the main, the main website, everything is on there for for the podcast, and all within the trenches podcast that can be found on Apple podcasts, and really just anywhere you listen to podcast, you can find it there. But yeah, everything will be on that website. I'm on social media all over the place. And my email is on there as well. So it's wttpodcast@gmail.com. And for those with phonetics, it's William-Tom-Tom-podcast.gmail.com, just in case the "T" sound like a "D". But yeah, that's where everyone can find everything that I'm doing. You know, I do a live broadcast, as I was mentioning, on Facebook, actually on all social media for open mic. And that's every Thursday at 9pm Eastern, we have people come on and they share their funny 911 stories. Sometimes I share some of the funny personal stories that I that I've had growing up and all but it's it's it's been a really great experience. And again, in the beginning, I never would have thought that I'm doing everything that it is that I'm doing now. But it's been an amazing experience. And I love it. 

Jerry D. Lund  
Yeah. Yeah. And, and I appreciate you doing that. That's awesome. I think like we talked about in the very beginning. This is dispatchers are really under just under appreciated, and forgotten in a lot of ways. So I appreciate you doing what you're doing for them because I have some friends that are dispatchers and right you want the very best for them to for sure. And further so they can have a long career is when dispatchers have a long career, right? They make our jobs on the other side so much easier. Yeah, as the responders.

Ricardo Martinez  
Especially when you hear that familiar voice and you're going into your shift and you know, everything's gonna be alright.

Jerry D. Lund  
Yeah, yeah. Ricardo, thank you so much for being on today.

Ricardo Martinez  
Thank you, it was a pleasure.

Jerry D. Lund  
Hey, everyone, please check out my very own apparel in Fire and Fuel Apparel. There you will find a wide array of apparel honoring first responders that can be shipped worldwide. Please give me a follow on Instagram too.

Outro  
Thanks again for listening. Don't forget to rate and review the show wherever you access your podcasts. If you know someone that would be great on the show, please get a hold of our hosts Jerry Dean Lund through the Instagram handles @jerryfireandfuel, or @enduringthebadgepodcast. Also by visiting the show's website, enduringthebadgepodcast.com for additional methods of contact and up to date information regarding the show. Remember the views and opinions expressed during the show, solely represent those of our hosts and the current episodes guests.

Everyday Heroes Podcast Network  
This podcast is part of the Everyday Heroes Podcast Network, the network for first responders and those who support them.

Ricardo Martinez II Profile Photo

Ricardo Martinez II

Founder

Ricardo Martinez II is the host and creator of Within the Trenches, a podcast based on the experience of being a 9-1-1 dispatcher. He is a former 9-1-1 dispatcher and supervisor of 13 years and is the head of Within the Trenches Media. In August of 2016, Ricardo started the #IAM911 movement that spread from the United States to Canada, the U.K., New Zealand and Australia. It’s popularity and success has brought the Thin Gold Line into the spotlight and has opened the eyes of millions to what 9-1-1 dispatchers deal with on a daily basis.