Saturday, November 26, 2011

Can I live with myself? -Dispatcher

Dispatchers know when they sit in that chair, and are in control of the radio... They hold the safety of the officers and citizens in their hands.  They are that Officer's cover,  back up.

It's a serious job!

With the job comes certain things to be done in a specific way so everyone knows what is going on.

The computers are a big part of this... CAD (Computer Aided Dispatching) should help you with the street address, hold history of the property and any calls of weapons, mentally ill people, or unwell/health concerns, it should also tell you which agency to send to that location.

The last agency I worked at had the whole city broken down into mile-by-mile numbered blocks.  Over time the numbered blocks that were the busiest you just memorized.  But you really didn't need to use the numbers, because the computer told you, once you typed in the address, which unit covered that area.

So, if I was sending someone to 123 main street, the computer would say... 1A Town PD responds, 1A Town Ambulance unit and Z Company Fire units go.

There is no looking up in books.  Memorizing the whole county or city or waisting time trying to figure out if that address is on the south or north side of the boundary line.

The computer is programmed to tell you!!!!!!  It knows!!!!

This one does not!

Which makes it impossible for someone that was not raised in the county to work as a 911 operator in this county.  I know.

You call in. Your husband is having a heart attack.  You give me your address, The computer does not tell me who to dispatch... I now am looking in another program that lists all the street names with what towns they belong to and who to dispatch.  Some streets have 7 pages that I have to look through.  It takes literally minutes to determine whom to send.

The CAD system should tell me who to send.  I complain, they have no clue why I am upset. I slouch back in disgust.  A few asked me what I was talking about.  When I explained how it's supposed to work, they exclaimed how that would make life so much easier.

Yes!!! It does!!!

I sink back in my chair and wonder... .How long will it take before I get one of 'those' calls... where the wait causes something bad to happen?

Can I ever live with myself knowing that this should never have had to happen?

The boss comes in the room one day and I mention it again to him.  I can't be silent.  This to me is serious business and the fact they aren't as concerned as I am is just horrible to me.

He seems to be trying to passify me. Telling me 'We're so sick of Californians coming in here telling us how we're supposed to do our job!' and talking about how he doesn't even think we can do that on this system.  I then show him the manual of the program I found online and point to the page where I say, 'see right here, it does do it!!'  To which he makes another excuse and I throw my arms up and exlaim:

'Why don't you just put me out of my misery and fire me already?'  His mouth is now hanging open in surprise as he sees how serious I am and I continue 'This program is broken!  It's not fully programmed and someone is going to get hurt!  I'm going to have to live with that!'

The co-worker next to me was in shock.  The boss re-composes himself and tried to make excuses.. He was a prior Cop.. He's good at trying to difuse the situation.

However, he came back 15 minutes later telling me he just made a phone call to the company and yes, it does exactly what I was saying it can do.  They just need to build their map system to implement it.

So for now, if you call 911, I was going to have to type in your address and then look it up in another program to determine which agency responds. 

And the question was still... Can I live with myself if something bad happens?


Dawn said...

OMG.....have you moved to Tennessee? I went through the same thing when I moved here....only I did get fired from that agency because I screamed too loud I guess. The worst part is that even at my new agency, nobody takes it serious either. I'm hoping to work in a "real" fancy again when's move.

The Dispatcher and Her Officer said...

Dawn.. Nope we are still on the west coast.. And it just amazes me some of the unsafe practices! :-(

Dawn said...

UGH....stupid spell check on my phone. That was supposed to have read a real AGENCY. LOL....a real fancy. Stupid thing.

Dave Bennett said...

If your boss doesn't listen - and in this case, your prior boss, then notify the local TV news. They'd love to do an expose' on how indifference at the 911 station is putting everyone's lives in danger. Reporters love an inside scoop. Plus, they protect their sources, so you'd be in the clear.

The Dispatcher and Her Officer said...

@ Dave... Don't think I didn't already think of that! (wink)

But it would really hurt more then it would help the co-workers that are still there.


John Law said...

These are general comments regarding dispatchers- how difficult their jobs are and how they too frequently are under appreciated (and underpaid).

I was a police chief for 10 years. During my tenure, we began psychological and intelligence testing of applicants. A couple of years later, the role of our dispatch center was expanded to include other departments, and we were expected to absorb their personnel.

This created an interesting opportunity. From past monitoring and interactions, we were very familiar with the quality of work, temperament, and judgment of the new staff, and had to hire them all, anyway. Even so, we required them to take the same tests we required of new applicants. We then compared the test results to the actual performance of the new folks (as well as to our own new hires since instituting testing).

For both groups (cops and dispatchers), the I.Q.'s ranged from a little above average (low end was between 100 and 105) to over 130. HOWEVER, when we separated into piles the people who had proven to be truly good at their jogs, we discovered that the lowest I.Q. score for a good dispatcher was about 10 points higher than the lowest for a good cop.

Not scientifically or statistically valid, given the subjectivity and small sample (and that's assuming I.Q. tests are very reliable), but interesting, wouldn't you say? A police officer often is able to focus on the situation at hand. A dispatcher more often must multi-task (juggle) calls and callers. That may take greater intelligence or at least a particular (and rarer?) kind.

Being a good dispatcher is tough work and, no matter how good your are, very stressful. All the more so because you feel very responsible and yet have so little authority or control. Everyone relies upon you to solve their problem, but everyone thinks (or does) outrank you in the pecking order.

You may be assured that at least one former chief appreciates what you do and has a wealth of respect.