Caroline Burau discusses "Tell Me Exactly What Happened: Dispatches from 911"

“In this powerful memoir, Caroline Burau beautifully captures the tumultuous world of a 911 dispatcher, as she struggles to calm frantic callers, dispatch resources, and offer lifesaving instructions over the phone.”--Kevin Grange, author of Lights and Sirens: The Education of a Paramedic

In her new book, veteran 911 operator Caroline Burau shares her on-the-job experiences at both a single-person call center (complicated by a public walk-up window) and a ground and air ambulance service. Whatever the position, the challenges for a dispatcher never end. Tragedy, boredom, and mind-bending weirdness are constant companions, as her stories--some funny, some odd, some sad--show. A “broken penis,” a case of domestic violence at the walk- up window, a tornado striking a mile away--Caroline Burau handles them all with efficiency, empathy, and humor.

But the job is not an easy one. On top of dealing with life-and-death situations everyday, Burau is shaken by the suicide of a colleague. She battles stress and burnout, knowing that she is truly helping people. She also realizes that no matter how long she is in the hot seat, listening, waiting, and answering 911, she cannot help everyone. Tell Me Exactly What Happened is one woman’s memoir, but it is also a welcome companion for anyone who has needed relief from a stressful job.


Caroline Burau has worked as a journalist, an emergency dispatcher, and a technical writer. She is the author of Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat.

Event date: 
Thursday, September 8, 2016 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
38 S Snelling Ave
St Paul, MN 55105
Tell Me Exactly What Happened: Dispatches from 911 Cover Image
ISBN: 9781681340098
Availability: Not in Our Store - Available to Order
Published: Minnesota Historical Society Press - September 1st, 2016

Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat Cover Image
ISBN: 9780873516020
Availability: Not in Our Store - Available to Order
Published: Borealis Books - September 15th, 2007