Emergency Medical Dispatcher Samad Billoo

Samad Billoo - emergency medical dispatcher

When you answer the phone, you have to be ready for anything. Every bit of your training comes into practice.

I remember taking a 999 call from a man who said his baby granddaughter was unwell. Within seconds of talking to him I found out she was unconscious and she wasn’t breathing.

My job was to calm the man down, get the information about where she was and get help as quickly as possible. I ended up talking this man through resuscitating his own grandchild. While our ambulance crew were on the way, I gave him instructions for mouth to mouth, and he managed to get her breathing again,

Those calls when everything works out are so satisfying. Making a difference is what being an emergency medical dispatcher is all about - but there’s much more to it than saving lives.

You get to help people who are in need, have the opportunity to raise awareness about health issues and ensure the wellbeing of vulnerable people in society - that is why I find it satisfying.

The role of an emergency medical dispatcher is to take 999 calls from members of the public, gaining important information from them so that we can arrange for help as soon as possible.

By asking the caller a series of questions, and using our computer systems, I get information which helps us to categorise the call.

Inevitably you do get called by people who don’t need an ambulance - for broken nails for example or non-medical issues - and this is frustrating, but these calls are constantly looked at to try and educate people around using the Service wisely.

Once you are trained on the call-taking side, you can move into the ‘dispatch’ area and begin actually sending crews to emergencies. You have to make decisions about which emergencies will be responded to first – looking for key words that have been typed in by the call-taker to determine the severity of the emergency.

You have to quickly identify which are the most urgent and life-threatening calls and you have to be able to think fast and work well under pressure. Being sympathetic and helpful are also great assets.

For example, if someone has fallen off of a ladder and is complaining of back pain, they may have a spinal injury and we will arrange for help to be sent straight away. However, if someone has fallen off a couple of steps and may have broken their ankle, the person with potential spinal injuries will get the ambulance first.

You have to deal with things like, would a single responder in a car reach a patient before an ambulance crew? How many ambulance crews should I send to this car accident?

Like any job it is daunting when you first start, but within a few days I had settled in thanks to the constant support and advice from fellow call-takers and trainers.

In terms of work-life balance, working for the London Ambulance Service is great as it fits well around family and socialising.

We do work 12-hour shifts, but we do four shifts and then have three days off and then we work four night shifts and have seven days off so there’s plenty of time outside of work.

Also, I have been given many opportunities to further my career while I’ve been here as there are so many different areas that you can move in to. I have completed nearly thirty courses, both in training as an emergency medical dispatcher and for other areas of the Service. I now give talks as part of the equality and diversity programme for example, so there’s plenty of ways to get involved!

Samad Billoo has been an emergency medical dispatcher for ten years and works in our control room at Waterloo.

If you are interested in a role as an emergency medical dispatcher, check our current vacancies page to see if we are recruiting.