Meet the Dispatcher: Ann Marie Cafuentes

My name is Ann Marie Cafuentes. I am a mother to two beautiful children, my son Vincent Ryu and my daughter Jade Elizabeth. I have been married to my high school sweetheart Armando for 12 years. I am a proud Filipino American and have a German Shepherd named Harley. I have three sisters and was raised by the most loving and supportive parents I could’ve ever asked for. I enjoy going on random adventures, traveling, and spending time with my loved ones. I am also a self-proclaimed Pokémon master, a huge fan of the Vampire Diaries/Niklaus Mikaelson, and a dedicated espresso lover. Above all else, my family is the most important part of my life, and I take pride in being the best mother I can be.

I have been a dispatcher for 10 years. I was a dispatcher for American Medical Response for 2 years and have been a dispatcher with Ventura County Fire for 8 years.

I became a dispatcher because I wanted to have the opportunity to help people and make a difference in people’s lives. Becoming a dispatcher was the perfect career choice for me because I know that every day I step into work, I can positively impact our community and the people that we serve.

A career as a 911 dispatcher is unlike any other. It is fast paced and challenging, but above all else, extremely rewarding. To be able to help people and play an integral part in public safety makes our job unique and special in its own way. We play a critical role in helping those in need and have the opportunity to save a life and positively impact the lives of others every day.

Unfortunately, in addition to the job’s demands, dispatchers experience traumatic calls day in and day out, and those calls can often negatively impact our emotional well-being. I remember early on in my career wondering if I truly had the skills and potential to survive a career that was so demanding, both physically and mentally. The vicarious trauma dispatchers endure is part of the job, so when we take a call that is rewarding, it truly reminds you why we do what we do and reminds you of the important role that we play in our community.

The most memorable call I have taken was my very first childbirth call.

I can still remember how anxious and scared my caller sounded and can still remember hearing the pain the patient was enduring. I provided them with reassurance that help was on the way and guided my caller with step-by-step instructions on how to safely deliver their baby. Hearing that baby take his first breath and hearing his first cry was so surreal. To hear the excitement from the parents knowing that their baby boy was delivered safely was such an amazing thing to be a part of. I recall feeling so overjoyed and full of excitement for that family. Call it cliché, but at that very moment, I knew that there was no other job for me. I knew that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

The most memorable incidents I have been involved with were the Thomas fire and the Borderline shooting. I was the command dispatcher for the Borderline incident, and was working both phones and radio for the duration of the Thomas incident.

 

 Both incidents were the first of my career that I have ever encountered that were so disastrous and large scale. Although we can never be fully prepared for an incident quite as complex, we as a center worked as a team and did the best we could. I was truly honored and humbled by my peers and saw them all as true heroes, and I still do to this day. To be able to put our emotions aside and handle everything with the skill and passion we did was inspiring to say the very least. I got to witness firsthand how amazing and strong we are as a center, how strong we are as a department, and how strong our community is.

Taking 911 calls is just one small part of a 911 dispatchers’ role. Dispatchers have to multi-task and are often doing several things at once, at a fast pace and under constant pressure. From taking that 911 call, to answering and monitoring radio traffic, processing requests for incidents, maintaining adequate coverage for the county, and prioritizing the safety of our field units and citizens. When you are calling 911 and asking for help, providing an accurate address/location is critical. We are trained to get the most pertinent information as quickly as possible, and the very first step is knowing your location so we can get you the help you need in a timely and efficient manner.

To read more about VCFD Dispatchers, visit:
https://conta.cc/3upjHXG

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