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Explore The World Of Emergency Dispatch In These Movies And TV Shows

Before “911 Crisis Center” returns to Oxygen, check out the many movies and TV series about the dramatic world of emergency dispatchers.

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Your First Look at an All-New Season of 911 Crisis Center!
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Your First Look at an All-New Season of 911 Crisis Center!

When lives are on the line, the chaos never ends. Season 2 of 911 Crisis Center premieres Saturday, September 3 at 9:30/8:30c.

Oxygen series “911 Crisis Center” chronicles the crew in action at Chagrin Valley Dispatch, an emergency communications center in Ohio. Each call at this busy hub could be a matter of life and death. 

The constant high stakes make the series, which premieres Saturday, Sept. 3 at 9:30/8:30c with new episodes airing at 9/8c beginning Sept. 10, so compelling. The inherent drama of a dispatcher’s pressure-cooker job also explains why fictional 911 operators frequently appear in TV shows and movies.

But are dispatchers in pop culture like the team in “911 Crisis Center”? We took a look at three to compare.

“9-1-1”

Jennifer Love Hewitt in the Awful People episode of 9-1-1.

Renewed in May 2022 for its sixth season, the Fox drama series follows Los Angeles-area first responders including dispatchers, police officers, paramedics, and firefighters. 

Maddie Buckley (Jennifer Love Hewitt), is one dispatcher. She brings her life experience and training to the job — just like the Chagrin Valley team. She’s helped an expectant father whose wife is in labor and calmed a caller unnerved by lights in the sky, according to a series fansite

Those incidents actually mirror ones that were shown last year on “911 Crisis Center.” In the latter, dispatchers learned that callers who reported UFO sightings were actually seeing spotlights from a raucous gathering. 

“We have a party going on up on the top of the hill at Fairmount,” an officer’s voice is heard telling a dispatcher. “They have a spotlight.”

“The Call”

Halle Berry in "The Call"

In this 2013 crime thriller, a serial killer kidnaps Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin), a Los Angeles teen, and stuffs her in the trunk of his car. However, the girl has a burner phone and makes a desperate call for help.

Dispatcher Jordan Turner (Halle Berry), still reeling because one of her callers was killed months earlier, pulls herself together in order to save Casey. She uses everything she knows and every tool in her arsenal to get Casey home. 

Like Jordan, Chagrin Valley staffers know their city. But Jordan takes steps that go far beyond a dispatcher’s duty for the sake of cinematic thrills. The movie may have gotten it right, though, when Jordan says 911 calls follow patterns and escalate at certain times of the year. 

“A full moon happens and things go crazy,” a “911 Crisis Center” dispatcher claimed last season.

“The Guilty” 

Jake Gyllenhaal in "The Guilty"

In this 2021 thriller, a woman who claims to have been abducted reaches out to a Los Angeles 911 call center. 

LAPD officer Joe Baylor (Jake Gyllenhaal), who’s facing marital and legal issues, is assigned dispatch shifts while he awaits a court hearing in an officer-related shooting and responds to the call.

Joe’s tactics are not exactly by the book as he bit-by-bit puts together what’s really happening with the abducted woman. However, the puzzle aspect of the movie is similar to an aspect of the call center staff’s work. 

“You have all these scattered pieces,” said a Chagrin Valley dispatcher. “Our job as dispatchers is to get information until we piece the whole puzzle together. Once we did that everything else was left up to the officers."

To learn more about dispatchers and what they do, watch “911 Crisis Center,” premieres Saturday, Sept. 3 at 9:30/8:30c with new episodes airing at 9/8c beginning Sept. 10. Or you can stream Season 1 here.

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