Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dispatchers are Human

Yes, dear reader. A dispatcher is human. The person answering that 9-1-1 call or working the police channel is human. Susceptible to all the frailties of being a member of the two-legged, oxygen breathing, mammal race has to entail.

For hour after hour we hear the overwhelming emotions on the phone, call after call. Listening to yelling, scared, hurting, confused, angry and upset people. After all, why would people call 9-1-1, or even the non-emergency phone number, if they didn't have a problem that they figure the police can or should handle.

Or sit at the radio for hours on end assisting officers who want or need information quickly. But not just two or three officers, but at times as many as fifty plus officers who need to be dispatched to an event that is pending, or disposition that needs to be taken, or wants and warrents ran, or premise history researched, or traffic stop logged, etc... all at the same time. Officers get snippy when information isn't returned to them in what they consider an expeditious manner, not paying attention to the fact that several other officers are also needing assist/information/dispatch/etc. from that same dispatcher.

Which means, the dispatcher has to deal with their emotions in a manner that, hopefully, isn't affecting their level of service.

We have to work at not snipping back at the officer who wants to know why we haven't given him a complete wants and warrants and probation history asked on five different people just after another officer asked for contact background on a suspect of a domestic violence in progress call he is enroute to, while detectives are asking for a wagon to transport their prisoner since they are driving unmarked vehicles and thus don't have cages in their units.

Or try not to get too exasperated at a caller who is calling in, for the fourth time that month, about their out of control teenager that is mouthing off, again. Or the caller who calls 9-1-1 because they find their car has been broken into and doesn't understand why it isn't an emergency.

This job exposes us to other people at their most raw emotional state of life. We hear women being beat by their "loved one"; children crying in the background while a neighbor calls in that the parents are "disciplining" their kids again; or a father crying because he is trapped in his vehicle after an accident and his baby isn't crying; or listening to shots over the air while an officer is requesting back up as he is under fire.

Because dispatchers are human, we have to deal with the feelings, the mental and physiological reactions, that this constant barrage subjects us to. Hour after hour, day after day, year after year.

So, dear reader, if you are a police officer, please be patient when waiting for your information, for a good dispatcher will be your best backup. The information is coming.

If, dear reader, you are a private citizen, please excuse my tone of voice if it is a little sharp. Possibly the call that came in before yours was upsetting, but because of my job, I can't get up and walk away for awhile. I have to answer the next phone call.

And, if dear reader, you are another dispatcher, you are not alone.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cop Language

If you work law enforcement you know that we speak another language. There is 10 code and 11 code and 9 code and vehicle code and penal code and health & welfare code and and and. You get the picture. But we also deal with abbreviations big time. Got to put a lot of information out there as quickly as possible in the most compact manner. Thus, codes and abbreviations are used. Only those of us "in the business" are going to understand.

459 busn IP... 3 WM susps LB e/b from loc, all wrg blk tshirts


Welf Ck HM down, poss 11-44


Poss DK driver w/b blu Chev p/u, partial lic 5NUV


Armed 211 just occd... 1 WF susp, blonde hair, 507, wrg yell dress... no one injd

You get the idea. What I do find frustrating is because I type in this language 10-15 hours a day, 4-6 days a week, when I have to type and write properly, similar to what I am doing now, I find myself typing in abbreviations. Have to go back and spell out a word. When I started this job I was typing 120+ wpm. Recently had a reason to retest my typing speed and it has slowed down to 89wpm. Because I had fallen out of the practice of typing complete words and sentences.

This job gets you in soooo many ways.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Calling 9-1-1

Okay people. Let's talk about calling 9-1-1.

This number is for life and death emergencies and crimes in progress only! Not to call to ask for a non emergency phone number because you're too lazy to call 4-1-1 for the information or look it up in the telephone book. Or to say you woke up to find your car stolen or broken into.

I have the opportunity regularly to speak in front of groups about proper 9-1-1 use. And I tell them these four things to remember. So listen up readers.

1. In ten words or less tell the dispatcher what is happening.
For example: I think I need an ambulance.
Was in a car accident.
See a house on fire.

2. Where is this happening?
Know your home address. Keep track of your location as you travel.

3. Shut Up!
There's no nice way to say this. But as a dispatcher I have a list of questions I need to ask you. You may have things you want to tell me, but they probably are not the items I need to know right away. There will be opportunity to tell me later or tell the officer. But Shut Up for right now and let me ask the questions for the information I need to know.

4. Breath!
Your adrenaline is madly pumping. You're excited and anxious and scared. That means your mind is not working like I need it to so I can help you. So take a deep breath. And another. Focus on my voice and let me try to help you.

These may seem like -duh- to you, but these are daily issues for any public safety dispatcher out there.