Diving Deep to Help Others


2024-04-15 09:00 PDT

Photo of Mandy-Rae winning a freediving award

With seven world records and 13 Canadian national records, Mandy-Rae has been a freediving force to be reckoned with since 2000. She was sought after by the film and entertainment industry as a gifted trainer of onscreen talent.

A highly motivated and a determined athlete with a great sense of humor, she also scored two first-place titles with Team Canada in the AIDA Freediving World Championships. 

She was a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Course Director, the highest level in recreational diving. The former competitive synchronized swimmer is also a proud member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame.

Mandy-Rae was part of the team that helped expose the slaughter of dolphins in Japan in the 2010 Academy Award-winning documentary, The Cove, and was a mermaid in the film, The Mermaid Chair.

She and her company trained actors Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson for their underwater roles in the feature film Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation (2015), actor Margot Robbie and her stunt double for their underwater roles in Suicide Squad (2016), resulting in breath-holds over five minutes, and trained actors on the set of James Cameron's Avatar 2 (2020). She was directly involved with training Special operations members, Canadian Olympic and RedBull Athletes.

Just before the pandemic in 2019, she sold her business, the internationally recognized Performance Freediving International (PFI), the world leader in freediving training.

Mandy-Rae always wanted to be a 9-1-1 Police Dispatcher and, during COVID, she saw a job poster asking people to apply.

Photo de Mandy-Rae faisant de la plongée en apnée avec une baleine

I always thought it would be an interesting job – helping the public who are in difficult situations and that it would be a great challenging profession to be in, says Mandy-Rae. Finally, I was at a point in my career when I could become a dispatcher.

She started training to be a dispatcher in 2021 at the 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre in Courtenay.
I was never interested in a desk job where you do the same thing everyday, says Mandy-Rae. With dispatching, every single call is different. It’s fast paced and there is so much information that you need to know that you are always learning something that is going to challenge you.

Mandy-Rae talks about the close-knit environment at the 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre.

I really enjoy going into work. It’s like a second family, says Mandy-Rae. Everyone has the same sense of humour.

Dispatching is far more than just answering 9-1-1 calls, says Mandy-Rae. You are not only taking calls but learning how to control the conversation, so you can get the answers that you need to dispatch to the police to the location and help them. You need to get those answers as quickly as possible and still be compassionate while letting them know the police are on their way.

Photo of Mandy-Rae freediving

Police Dispatching also includes looking after police officers and directing them to the scene. People who call 9-1-1 are often surprised at the number of questions a dispatcher will ask. They are ensuring that the officers have all the information they need to safely respond to the incident.

I had no idea when I started the job how involved it was – what a big role it plays in public safety, adds Mandy-Rae. It is your responsibility to make sure officers stay safe and give them all the resources they need.

Dispatchers are trained to search multiple databases and notify the officer of any hazards or flags. For example, when an officer pulls over a vehicle, the dispatcher will search for the name of the registered owner and their driver licence number before the police even speak to the driver.

The officer needs to determine if there is any potential danger, she adds. They need to know if there are any guns registered to the individual or if there is a history of violence or mental illness. All of these answers must be delivered in a split second.

The people who work in the 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre know how challenging some calls can be and they help each other out.

I had a call where someone had been stabbed, remembers Mandy-Rae. The entire dispatch centre came together. When something big has happened and you need all these resources immediately. Police officers are arriving on scene and calling the 9-1-1 Dispatcher requesting various resources. While you are dealing with one officer, you can turn to another dispatcher and ask them to call Emergency Health Services, and ask another to search tattoos. Dispatchers just step in.

Dispatching can also be very rewarding. You help find a person’s car, or their stolen goods, or help the officer catch the bad guy.

Photo of Mandy-Rae at 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre

Even though you are not seeing the people you are talking to, you are making a difference by just listening to them, she adds. You know you have helped someone. You feel good that the officers arrived in time to help the person. There are moments like that that make you feel really good about what you are doing.

Most dispatchers work 12-hour shifts, four days in a row. Mandy-Rae has a 13-year-old daughter and finds shiftwork is easier than a Monday to Friday job.

I absolutely love shiftwork! You work hard for your four days, but you get four days off, says Mandy-Rae. I can go camping with my daughter for three days, not just two. And it doesn’t have to be on a weekend. We can go during the week. I have a better work-life balance.

When Mandy-Rae gets home from a day shift, her daughter makes her dinner. On night shifts, she makes breakfast for her daughter and takes her to school.

My daughter used to brag about my world records. Now she brags about what I do now – that I’m doing something that makes a difference – that is worthwhile and meaningful, says the proud mother.

Last year, Mandy-Rae’s sister began training and is now an RCMP Police Dispatcher in Edmonton.
Mandy-Rae is responsible for recruiting trainees for the 9-1-1 Police Dispatch Centre in Courtenay. Mandy-Rae hosts weekly information sessions and explains the application process and why she loves what she does.

If you are seeking a career where every day and every shift is different, you look forward to engaging with people from all different walks of life to help them through difficult situations, this may be the job for you.

Released by:

BC RCMP Communications Services

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