Monday, November 19, 2012

The New Norm

As I write this I am listening to it rain outside the department. There is an exit door right by my station which allows me to hear outside noises very easily.  Have always enjoyed listening to rain, hard and fierce, or softly with small drips.  The sound is soothing.

Then it occurred to me.  I was LISTENING to it rain.  Long time readers know I worked for a long time in a windowless basement with padded walls.  We only knew of the weather outside due to callers and officers.

But my new norm is the ability to hear more than just the trauma and drama of caller after caller.  Or the sarcasm dripping from officers voice on the radio.  Or hearing a dispatcher complaining, valid or not, for hours on end about a plethora of problems.

I truly believe long time dispatchers gain a special sensitivity in their hearing.  We develop this skill over the years, picking up small sounds in the background or the callers voice to indicate not all is what they say.  Or the tone and speed of an officers cadence in asking for fill or information, telling the acute hearing skills he is stressed about something he is seeing and perhaps a fill might be a good idea, when not even asked for.

But to be able to hear the rain.  Hear the wind rushing through the trees and bushes near the office door and window.  Being able to hear Mother Nature playing with the elements is a special new delight.  It is my new norm.

I think I could really get use to this new feature in my life.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Occupied Residental Burglary

A fear many of us women have.  Being home, alone, when you hear your front door open.  You know no one should be coming through that door.  And yet, there is a body outline at the open door.

Took a call from a woman this evening the above horror movie making moment had happened.  She was reading in bed, thought she heard a soft knock on her front door.  Took her a moment or two to process, get up, put her robe on, and open her bedroom door.  During that time an unknown subject opened her door.  Her alarm went off.  She yelled out.  He yelled back, "Aw shit" and fled.

As a regular reader, you know I have a thing about calling 911 immediately, not after you have called numerous other family members and friends, and to tell me in as few words as possible what happened.  And where you are.  And she did!  My called must be a reader.

She told me her home had just been broken into.  Her address.  And stopped talking so I could ask some questions.  After the third question she was asking if I was going to send her help, but she kept her cool.

We were at her location in a couple minutes.  One officer saw another vehicle fleeing at a high rate of speed from the general area and took chase.  Ended up not being related, just a drunk driver.  But as he has a history of these forms of law enforcement contacts regarding his inebriated driving habits, it was a good catch.

My caller was shaken, but okay.  I told her on the phone she did a good job, quickly calling me instead of her father who insisted she install the alarm.  Wish we had more callers like her.

Well, not more calls of occupied residential burglaries.  Really don't need those calls for service.  But having a caller who can keep their head together long enough to tell me, as an emergency call taker, what just happened, oh yeah.  Makes my job so very much easier.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Happy 100

Can you believe it?  This is #100 of my blogs.  Took me three years of sporadic writing, but it is a goal worthy of notice.

I mean, they make a big deal when a show makes 100 episodes.  So why not my blog?

Okay, now the quandry begins.  What should the subject matter of this momentous occasion be?  Should I reiterate something already mentioned?  Or a review of the last 100 entries?  A new topic to explore and discuss?

Literally, I sat for over a week trying to think of something truly worthy of this (narcissistic?) occassion.  And then it was dropped into my lap, courtesy of my niece.

She has approached me for guidance and mentoring as she embarks on a path towards becoming a police officer.  Say What!?!?

She has seen first hand the hardships on the person and the family through my husband.  Her grandfather was a motorcycle cop for several years and has talked about the problems of being an officer.  She has listened to me badmouth and cry over some of my experiences as a dispatcher.

But due to a personal experience (well, actually two) of them in her recent past (she's over 21), she feels the calling.  Yes, a calling.

So I will support her and mentor where I can.  Hubby is already onboard and giving her some suggestions and points to study.

A calling.  Wow.  Pretty heavy thought.  I related it to her like what a priest or a nun must feel, they are drawn into religious service.  And she said that is how it feels.

She sees herself in a position of helping.  Not serving people through nursing, which her grandparents would prefer, but in public service as an officer.  Still seeing people at their worst, like a nurse would, but with far fewer and far in between thank you's and smiles as an officer.  In nursing she would see first hand the benefits of her care.  As an officer she would hopefully get to see the benefit of her attention to detail and safety be reflected in the saving of a life.

As an officer she would be front line of witnessing people at their lowest and worst moments of their lives. 

As an officer she will be watching first hand the results of poor judgement and an attitude of not caring. 

As an officer she will have her decisions and actions questioned by people with no understanding of the job or by superior officers who have the benefit of making decisions with all the information later.

As an officer she will deal with being a not just a spectator of life theatre but who will also have a walk-on part with no script to follow, just working off pure instinct and training.

As an officer she will have the golden opportunity to show people there are choices in life one can make to better themselves along with their community.

As an officer she will have the sweetest of chances to touch and improve the outlook for a child who is victim of the adult in their life.

As an officer she can exemplify what is right and good in a female officer that can offer her department and community a special insight of good choices and follow through.

As an officer she can make herself and her family proud.

Go girl.  Auntie got your back.

And remember to be very very good to your dispatchers.  (Yes, a long lecture was delivered on this subject already.)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Policies and Procedures

All agencies have Policies and Procedures.  Supposedly so everyone knows their responsibility and actions demanded of them in any given call for service or request.  Much is common sense, some you think were written by a juvenile chimpanzee.

With regards to the release of reports.  Why do citizens yell (literally) in the lobby when demanding a copy of a report and told there are procedures in the request? 

With our agency you make a written request, pay a fee, the request is reviewed and either approved or not approved.  If approved, our records clerk then makes a copy and sends it to the requester.

The list of those who can get a copy of a report basically have to have their name somewhere in the report.  Either as a directly involved party or registered owner of the vehicle involved, or listed in some manner. 

But lately it seems "others" have been requesting reports where they aren't mentioned and very upset when denied.  Or the man who created a huge scene in the lobby trying to get a copy of a report of a police action his son was involved in.  His "of age" son.  Son wouldn't tell him the w-h-o-l-e story.

What happened to the right of privacy?  What happened to kids, even grown kids, telling parents the whole story since they are asking for the parents help?  What happened to insurance companies making the requests and now having their customers do all their leg work?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Lately the topic of retirement has been popping up.

There are two dispatchers who are eligible for retirement now, one having already given a date in January 2013.  The other (who is so burnt out and so crabby because of it) keeps saying she plans to retire before the end of 2013 but worried about having the money to support herself and all her four-legged menagerie.  (Even with our pay cuts, she has the money because at a weak moment she talked about her finances, telling me more than I really wanted to know.)

In the list of older dispatchers, I would be next.  Ouch. 

My hubby (I know, I know, I don't talk about him much here) can also retire any time he wants.  He wants to pay off his truck, three more years, and then set a retirement date.  He is involved with lots of non-home improvement projects. Actually, not putting in a 40+ hour work week will give him more time to be more involved in his community activities.

My mother-in-law made sure I learned from her lesson on personal and spouse retirement.  She retired first, had a routine with the house and garden, church mass, weekly hair appointment, bi-weekly lunch with best friend.  Then my father-in-law retired.  He was so use to working very long hours that when he no longer was punching a time clock, he really didn't know what to do.  He would follow her around the house, the garden, basically driving her nuts.  She told him to get a job for a few hours a week to get out of the house and out of her hair.

She instructed me to make sure hubby retired first, had a routine of activities, before I retired.  To save myself a lot of grief.

So that has been our plan for many years.  The biggest difference between hubby and his father is hubby is more involved in projects and service than his father was at time of retirement.  But will be sure he is fully integrated before I turn in my retirement date.

And now the pickle.

I'm in a quagmire of "this" or "that" when I think about retirement.  My retirement.

I have been working since 12 years old.  Paycheck jobs since age 16.  The only time I wasn't working regularly, or 40 hours a week, was when I was raising our family. I worked for a temp service, so I could work around the school and after school activities schedule and hubby's horrific work schedule.  But I was still putting in a lot of hours around the house and at the kids school.  Sometimes running a typing service on the side.  And always busy with a very large service club.

But a lot of things have changed over the last couple of years since hubby and I started making retirement plans and discussing our "wants" over the previous years.  Maybe because I am truly looking at a retirement date soon, for him and me, I am getting confused and worried.

I can already hear some voices saying, "Hey, you're looking at three years alone before hubby retires, and you plan to wait awhiles after his retirement to plan your own, why are you even stressing about it now?"

Like any good emergency plan, or long term investment plan, you have to think ahead and play the "what if's" game.  And because I know I will be officially retiring probably five years or so from now, I need to start preparation and planning, for reals.

What am I going to be doing with myself without having the call of a 40+ hour work week?

And need to truly think about what to do with my free time.  Which has just become very large.

Retirement - that word is getting to be high on my list of scary words.

Friday, May 25, 2012

NYC 911 Needs CPR

This article was forwarded to me by a friend.  I love NYC, love to visit with my friends and family there.  Haven't yet been able to arrange a sit-a-long to see they 911 center.  This report breaks my heart.


Thursday, May 10, 2012, 2:00 AM

Todd Maisel/New York Daily News

Mayor Bloomberg and his fire and police commissioners toured the new NYPD-FDNY 911 operators and dispatchers headquarters at 11 Metrotech in Brooklyn earlier this year. A report says the $2 billion modernization is riddled with errors.

No wonder Mayor Bloomberg fought for months to keep secret an independent review he requested of problems dogging the city's 911 communications upgrade.

Bloomberg finally released the report late Friday - or at least a shortened version of the original draft - after a long court battle with the firefighters unions who want the whole thing made public.
Even in its abridged form, the report's conclusions are a huge embarrassment to City Hall. The 911 modernization, after all, is one of the signature projects of the Bloomberg era. It has already cost taxpayers $2 billion - nearly twice its original pricetag - and is still not finished.
Most disturbing are the report's conclusions that city officials have operated the 911 system contrary to the "best practices" of emergency response organizations nationwide.
The NYPD, for example, typically requires 911 operators to ask callers a dozen questions. They ask about the caller's borough, exact location, cross streets, apartment number, building floor, name and phone number. Then the operators have to verify that information via computer even before asking the nature of the emergency.
According to the report, operators don't ask the type of emergency - a crime, a medical problem or a fire - until question No. 12.

The questions, which have been part of NYPD protocols for decades, consume valuable seconds and do not conform to best standards, the report concluded.

The new report to Bloomberg, done by the Virginia-based Winbourne Consulting Group, urges the NYPD to "consider changing the order of the questions asked the caller to first ask 'what is your emergency,' before trying to determine the caller's location.

If the caller says 'fire' or 'heart attack,' the 911 operator should then immediately connect the person to an appropriate Fire or EMS dispatcher, the consultants recommended. That dispatcher would then take over asking the remaining questions while the police operator stays on the line and simultaneously inputs the responses into the NYPD computers.

The way things operate now, the NYPD operator asks all the location questions first, and if a fire dispatcher or EMS dispatcher is later connected, those dispatchers have to repeat the same location questions.

Emergency officials said operators ask the location questions first in case a call gets dropped. Records from Los Angeles show operators there ask for the nature of the emergency by the third question.

The proposed change would "eliminate redundant data entry," "improve the 911 call processin*g time," and "leverage the call taking expertise" of Fire and EMS dispatchers, the report concludes.

But the problems don't end there.
The city is also masking how long it actually takes emergency responders to answer a 911 call - commonly referred to as "response time," the reports says.
All over the country response time is defined as "the total time from the time a 911 call is made to the arrival of the responding units," the report says.
That includes four components: waiting for a 911 operator to pick up; the "call-processing time" by the operator; the time spent by dispatchers from either police, Fire or EMS sending units out; and the time it takes units to arrive.
But the city's calculations of response time have never publicly counted the first two steps - the time it takes 911 to answer the phone, and the time the 911 operator is asking the questions.
"This practice inhibits the ability of the NYPD and FDNY Fire and EMS to generate accurate response time information," the report said.
In other words, you can't trust what City Hall says about response times.
Other parts of the report point to the historic turf battles between the Police and Fire Departments.
Despite all that money spent on modernization, Police, Fire and EMS still maintain their separate maps of the city for their dispatchers, their own separate databases of addresses, and their own separate computer dispatch systems.
The separate systems lead to periodic mixups in dispatching emergency workers because the same location can have a different address depending on the database.
They are all now co-located in the same emergency call center in downtown Brooklyn - but each still preserves its own turf.
The 911 system itself is in need of emergency care.
The report Bloomberg sought to hide is aptly titled l "911CPR."

Read more:
In earlier posts I have lectured about how to make a 911 call.  First thing to do, in ten words or less, state the emergency.  Then you give location information.
But I think what really bothers me, is clearly the call takers are using a script to make up calls for service.  Like the medical aid emergency dispatchers here, they follow a script, depending on the callers answers they go to the next screen of what to ask.
Don't think I could work that way.  Maybe because I was taught/trained differently.  If script driven call taking is all I know how can I imagine the free format of thinking and responding call taking?  
I think script driven call taking is too restrictive.  It has its place (especially in medical aid calls), but when you are taking calls for help and truly listening to the callers voices (inflictions, breathing, stalls) and the background, you sometimes know there are other questions you need to ask to get the full story. 
And when you are script driven you don't have that freedom.  You can actually get written up and disciplinary action taken against you for deviating from the script.
A well trained dispatcher knows what to ask, in the proper order, without the benefit of a script. 
Hey New York, try answering 911 calls as, "911, What's your emergency?"

Sunday, May 20, 2012

How Officers Are Seen

I love this card.  Thank you to Mrs Fuzz.
This made me laugh.
And it is so very true.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

MDS Training

Regular readers know I changed LE agencies a couple years ago.  From a very large metropolitan LEA to a small LEA.  Am glad to be back to my roots and knowing all my officers by name and face and voice.

My new agency is finally able to go MDS. Yippee.  Get computers in the patrol units.  Less air traffic.  Easier to communicate with the officers too.

In my former LEA job all the units, even many unmarked, had MDS's in their vehicles.  I love MDS dispatching.  Lots of years experience with upgrades and changes and still love the overall effectiveness.

In my new LEA I am the only dispatcher that has worked with MDS dispatching.  Only two of our newest officers have worked with MDS dispatching. 

And NONE of us were part of the team who put together the training, design, and application.  The team were senior sgt, senior dispatcher, senior lt, our department tech person and the company rep.

And now the training has begun.  Instead of getting the experienced MDS dispatching people in at least the first class, we are all part of the last group to get trained.  As the training room is nearby my dispatch center - and all their "training events" are popping up on my dispatch screen, I am already seeing a problem I pulled the tech person out to point out on my screen.

Why would the department not put the most experienced people as part of the team in the integration to more quickly spot problems and cut them off? To help with training?  Share their experiences?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

911 Agencies Deal with Pocket Dials at Scary Pace

911 Agencies Deal With Pocket Dials At Scary Pace

By: Marcus Thorpe

Published: May 10, 2012 Updated: May 10, 2012 - 11:20 AM


It takes a special person to be a 911 dispatcher. You have to be at your best every second of every day.

And dispatchers are ready to act and react when you are having your worst day.

But along with the legitimate calls they receive, there are a prank calls, or accidental calls that come along.

Those calls still have to be answered, and in some cases dispatchers send emergency crews to the scene, only to find out there is not an emergency.

The New York Times reports that in 2010, about 40 percent of the calls to 911 were made by accident.

Tonight at 5 p.m., we are looking into the problem locally. What is being done? Does it slow down response time? And how do dispatchers and emergency crews deal with the growing issue?

Just found this wonderful teaser for a tv news piece.  It's nice to see them acknowledging our skills.  And truly love the questions asked at the end.
What is being done?  Well, a handful of states (mine included), have passed a law about abuse of the 911 system, stating these subjects are subject to fines and citations.  Yeah, try to get an officer to actually enforce it.  We dispatchers can document all we want, but have yet to see an actual citation issued.  Just lots of warnings issued instead.  And each department has that one or two callers who call 911 for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, emergency or not.
Does it slow down response time?  Again for dispatchers, the answer is a no-brainer.  911 calls are a priority.  They pop up first on our boards, we put other calls on hold to answer them.  And it takes at least a full minute to confirm it is not an emergency and give them a different phone number to call.  Or longer when they want to argue with you about it.  That means the next 911 call has to wait.  And it could be a legitimate call for help.  Which slows down the time to make up the request for call for service or for dispatching an officer. 
And how do dispatchers and emergency crews deal with the growing issue?  Well, as earlier stated, laws are made so people can be cited/ticketed for abusing the system, but aren't being utilized.  So, instead, we get frustrated and angry but attempt to answer each 911 call as a potential life threatening emergency call and be as professional and patient as we can with the people who seem to lack common sense. 
When we seem to get a high number of non-emergency 911 calls, butt dialed or children playing on phones, I try to take a deep breath and remind myself these @&#& people are my job security.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Study of Dispatchers and PTSD Part 3

Since my rewrite got long, decided to print here as two parts (which means this is actually Part 3) because of the plethora of GOOD information.  And let's face it fellow dispatchers, we are more accustomed to short reads (magazine articles) than novels (Gone with the Wind) reading attention spells.

Am going to quote different notations from the news article ( earlier discussed and the actual Brief Report published in the April 2012, 25, 211-215 Journal of Traumatic Stress published by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. My comments will be highlighted. But believe piecing together different sections will share the information, hopefully, in a cohesive and understandable manner. As the Brief Report mentions scales I have not a clue about, hopefully I can share the information with you, the reader, but more for my own edification, typing up the notes will help me understand more about PTSD as it relates to my career choice.

Now my rewrite of the article and Brief Report:: (Part 2)

Telecommunicators, however, have limited control over the event and may encounter extremely distressed callers and/or aversive details of traumatic events. Given these factors, one might expect the level of emotional distress surrounding this work to be elevated in telecommunicators compared to other professions. In fact, a dissertation about telecommunicators found that the majority of telecommunicators in the sample reported experiencing peritraumatic distress in relation to at least one call handled while on duty as a telecommunicator.

Being a 911 dispatcher is generally considered a stressful profession. However, the results from the study indicate the events typically handled by these first responders are also traumatic, and there can be adverse mental health effects. This implies a strong need to enhance prevention and intervention efforts.

As hypothesized, peritraumatic distress reported by telecommunicators was high and occurred in reaction to an average of 32% of different types of calls that may be experienced by telecommunicators. As predicted, a positive relationship (ugh, that phrase again) was found between peritraumatic distress and PTSD.

This suggests that although telecommunicators are physically distant from the traumatic scene and their personal integrity is rarely threatened, they may not be buffered from the development of PTSD symptoms. Considering the frequency of exposure to upsetting calls, however, and the heightened peritraumatic distress, as well as the rate of PTSD symptoms, future research is warranted. (!! Yes!! Take note people!!)

An interesting side note that was written by the authors:: A self-selection bias may have also skewed results. The sample could have been a particularly resilient group of telecommunicators, or telecommunicators with current PTSD symptomatology may have not self-selected for participation in the study due to the avoidance seen as part of the PTSD symptom picture. It is also possible that highly distressed telecommunicators quickly remove themselves from the occupation and are not well-represented among current telecommunicators. It is therefore possible that rates of PTSD symptoms would be even higher in a sample of telecommunicators not selected out of convenience. (You Think?? I sooo agree. And want to explore this thought further in another posting.)

The conclusion bears thinking seriously about:: PTSD symptoms that may be present in telecommunicators can impair decision-making abilities and functioning, which could pose significant risk to the general population that relies on them to quickly and effectively coordinate an emergency response. (Scary thought. Another point to further explore later.)

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Study of Dispatchers and PTSD Part 2

I am impressed with the initial study that noted links between 911 dispatchers and PTSD symptoms conducted by Heather Pierce and Michelle Lilly of Northern Illinois University.

Am going to quote different notations from the news article ( earlier discussed and the actual Brief Report published in the April 2012, 25, 211-215 Journal of Traumatic Stress published by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.  My comments will be highlighted.  But believe piecing together different sections will share the information, hopefully, in a cohesive and understandable manner.  As the Brief Report mentions scales I have not a clue about, hopefully I can share the information with you, the reader, but more for my own edification, typing up the notes will help me understand more about PTSD as it relates to my career choice.

Since my rewrite got long, decided to print here as two parts (which means there is a Part 3) because of the plethora of GOOD information.  And let's face it fellow dispatchers, we are more accustomed to short reads (magazine articles) than novels (Gone with the Wind) reading attention spells.

Now my rewrite of the article and Brief Report:: (Part 1)

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a traumatic event.  It is more commonly associated with combat veterans or frontline emergency workers, such as police officers and firefighters.  Peritraumatic distress, the strong emotions felt during a traumatic event, may increase the risk for PTSD in police officers.  Much less is known about emotional reactions and PTSD symptomatology in 911 telecomminicators.  Research on PTSD in 911 telecommunicators, who may experience significant duty-related trauma exposure, has remained largely absent.

The current study assessed duty-related exposure to potentially traumatic calls, peritraumatic distress, and PTSD symptomatology in a cross-sectional, convenience sample (willing volunteers) of 171 telecommunicators from 24 states.  Participants reported experiencing fear, helplessness or horror in reaction to nearly one-third of the different types of potentially traumatic calls.  Survey results showed that dispatchers experience high levels of peritraumatic distress. (Wish they had further noted this is a DAILY occurrence as well for those of us in larger agencies due to the population levels we serve.)

Results showed that telecommunicators reported high levels of peritraumatic distress and a moderate, positive relationship  (Not sure a positive but a definite connection) was found between peritraumatic distress and PTSD symptoms.  The results suggest that 911 telecommunicators are exposed to duty-related trauma that may lead to the development of PTSD and that direct, physical exposure to trauma may not be necessary to increase risk for PTSD in this population (meaning us Dispatchers).

The NIU study suggests that one does not need to be physically present during a traumatic event, or to even know the victim of a trauma, in order for the event to cause significant mental health challenges.  The findings indicated the need for a broader definition and understanding of what might constitute a traumatic event.

Callers to 911 dispatchers are often experiencing an emotional crisis and are hysterical.  Telecommunicators are under enormous pressure to control their own emotions while extracting the pertinent information, securing the emergency scene and communicating with multiple agencies - sometimes during life-and-death situations.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Study of Dispatchers and PTSD Part 1

Thanks to Scott Pantall, a dispatcher from Colorado, I became aware of a published study linking dispatchers and PTSD.  As a regular reader of this blog knows, it is a point of concern for me personally. 

I pulled up the actual Brief Report study published in the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, written by Heather Pierce and Michelle M Lilly, both of Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University.

For the news article:

For Brief Report published by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies:
What's really cool about this article and research, for me, is Heather Pierce worked for more than a decade as an emergency dispatcher and knows from personal experience how our job affects so many parts of our lives.

Co-Author Michelle Lilly is quoted, "the new research is the first published study to reveal the extent of on-duty emotional distress experienced by dispatchers."

Thought I might disagree with their findings that only 3.5 percent of the survey participants (171 on-the-job emergency dispatchers from 24 states) reported symptoms severe enough to qualify for a diagnosis of PTSD, I will be exploring their research and discuss it here further, Part 2.  Maybe Part 3.

And hope this opens the lines for further research about Dispatchers and PTSD.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Our Normal - The Abnormal

Was reading an interview of an officer who said an interesting thought.  One of the things she actually likes about her job, "Being a peace officer, you experience crazy, abnormal behavior on a daily basis."  It could easily read, "Being a dispatcher you experience crazy, abnormal behavior on a hourly basis."

Which, means to me, the abnormal behavior is our normal.  How sad is that?

Think about it.  Abnormal behavior is deviating from normal or acceptable behavior.  Usually it entails in our world the breaking of a law, the committing of a crime.  Acting out aggressions and anger in a destructive manner. 

But those of us who work telephone land know that abnormal thinking, not just the behavior, is part of too many of our phone calls.  Thus, abnormal thinking and behavior is really part of our norm.

And I wonder, how does it begin to twist our thinking?  It is scary when you talk to some of these people and can actually follow their reasoning.  Even when it is disjointed.  And how we start labeling certain classification of people because of the minuscule contact of a certain group.

Don't think enough of us take time to remember that what we are seeing and hearing is abnormal.  We become so acceptable of the behavior and thought we consider it normal to hear and see people behave and act out.

Is it any wonder officers and dispatchers burn out?  That they drink too much?  Or try to damper the inner conflicts with drugs?  Thus, we start our own abnormal actions to find balance with what our work world considers normal.

What an ugly twisted mind game we play.  And try to thrive and work through.  And continue to try to help through normal channels in a world surrounded by abnormal thought and behavior.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Yesterday was one of those rare days of overtime in my new (well, more than a year now) smaller agency. Have gotten use to working only 40 hours a week compared to my prior large agency where if I only worked 45 hours a week it was a light week.

I took a walk during my break and saw a former co-worker from the other agency. She was one of the "B's" who if they didn't like you would make fun of you. It was her sister who was the major "B" who created such drama inside the dispatch center that I changed shifts and days off to attempt to have as little cross over shift work with her as possible.

I had filed a couple complaints against the major "B" on harassment and of course, nothing was truly done. Accountability from co-workers and supervisors will be a point of discussion another time.

The rest of my day was a "roll tape" of memories of my years with the larger agency. Some of the good times, but mostly of the harassment and pokes received from some of the "B's" of the larger agency.

They ran the dispatcher center. If you weren't part of the inner circle, nothing you did was acceptable, they would yell at you across the room with dumb ass questions, sabotage your calls with incomplete information when working the radio, refuse to take their share of phone call traffic, take longer than scheduled breaks, etc.

All day was a constant poke of yet another memory of their subtle, and not so subtle, attempts at breaking me and embarrassing me. I could not shake them out of my head, no matter what I tried. And my sleep was another run of dreams involving them and supervisors. Even in my dreams they were getting away from being held responsible for their actions.

I found out the sister I saw and the major "B" sister both took "stress" early retirements! WHAT?!?!?!?! They were the cause of sooooo much stress and drama in the dispatch center and they got stressed out enough to be medically retired?!?!?!?

I knew I was getting truly stressed out. I was getting to the end of my mental health rope. Ready to explode, yell, scream, cuss, deep sarcasm. Even get physical with at least one dispatcher. I knew I was getting bad, barely balancing on the edge, so I, like a responsible adult, decided I needed to leave and sought other employment. It meant a loss of pay, but I wouldn't end up fired or in jail, which neither included a paycheck.

And they got stress medical retirement??!??!??!

And more than a year later I am still getting flashbacks and stomach aches and losing sleep and nausea from memories of my time spent locked up with them in a windowless basement for over eight years.

And they are getting tax free medical retirement monies and getting their educations on my tax dollar?? Hell No. Where can I file for a review of their files? Who do I contact for a tax audit for them? How come they aren't being held accountable for their actions? UGH

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Check This Out

I had earlier mentioned the fact my last continuing education course dealt with suicide callers. A tough and frustrating part of our job. During the course they talked about the West Coast Post-Trauma Retreat, a place for first responders to get help from other first responders who understand the special and unique requirements of law enforcement and fire fighting and medical rescue.

Of course, I had to ask if they (WCPR) also recognize that dispatchers are capable of getting PTSD. But their needs for counseling are different than the officer/firefighter/paramedic/emt.


Check out the website, specifically the location above. Clearly dispatchers are getting the professional respect needed, thus getting the professional help many of us need.

I will volunteer the fact I have sought counseling because of the stresses of my job. And even though the counselor/phd works with other officers and a couple dispatchers, the counselor/phd, wasn't from that "world" and only could listen from a "second-hand" knowledge.

Not quite the same. Though I appreciated the support I got, and at times the encouragement, I still don't think the impact of my job, listening and hearing too much, was truly understood. And since one of my complaints was the constant whining of callers about problems they made, knowing I was in that office whining too, made it difficult to truly open up.

I think this would be a "safe" and good place, with listeners truly understanding our daily tasks, to fully express our 'tudes and frustrations (with callers and brass and supervisors).

It has been hard to find papers written on ptsd for dispatchers. Those in the psychological field don't usually recognize our stress levels since, in their opinions, we are removed from the actual trauma by the phone extension, thus not directly involved.


As dispatchers we are the first of the first responders. We may not have the visual but our imaginations can color those pictures real quick. And it is, and can be, very difficult to turn off the mental recordings of those phone calls or the radio traffic in time of crisis.

Maybe here some of us can get the help and learn the skills to handle the long term effect of this job.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Suicide Facts

I recently took a course (continuing education) on the Dispatcher's Role in Suicidal Calls. By far, one of the toughest calls we periodically handle. Just wanted to share some of the facts and truths I learned in this class with my fellow dispatchers.

**How many of us prepare ourselves for the onslaught of suicidal calls around the holidays, November and December? In fact, April and May have the highest suicide rates.

**All suicidal people are not mentally ill. As a calltaker, we know that intellectually, but we still think of them as crazy for thinking or attempting. A suicidal person may be unhappy, anxious, and/or upset, but not all can be labeled as mentally ill.

**As a dispatcher/calltaker we have a tendency to think of suicide as the actions of a young/younger person. But an elderly person commits suicide every 90 minutes.

**Suicide is the 8th leading cause of death in the US. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24. For college students, the 2nd leading cause of death.

Now the really tough - "Hitting Close to Home" facts:

**In a survey of 500 police officers from 9 major cities, 98% have considered suicide at one time.

**There are 18.5 suicides per 100,000 documented cases of law enforcement suicide versus the military has documented 13 suicides per 100,000.

**LE Officers between the ages of 40-44 with on-the-job service of 20 plus years are at the highest risk of suicide, representing 27% of all law enforcement suicides.

**LE Officers commit suicide every 22 hours, nearly three times more often than LE Officers are killed in the line of duty.

**LE Retiree suicides are 10 times higher than active officers.

I've been close to suicide in many different ways. Personal life. Professional life. Friend. Have handled many suicide calls in my long and checkered career. Some ended better than others. I went into the class thinking and believing I, well, didn't know it all, but had a very good grasp on the concept and the ramifications and the fallout of suicide, especially in the area that I handle daily, as the calltaker and radio dispatcher.

Some interesting things were learned in class. And I will explore them more fully here. After all, this blog is for my use of exploration and learning and sharing. This is not a comfortable subject, but can't be the monster we are frightened of or the elephant in the room we don't acknowledge.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Just Discovered

Okay, I'm a little behind on this blog, much less some interesting news. With regards to Facebook. Very few people are not on Facebook anymore. And we have heard the stories of the FB postings of someone who is contemplating suicide or who left a note for all and saundry before they committed suicide.

Did you know that Facebook has set up a link were FB users can report a suicidal comment they see posted by a friend with the Report Suicidal Content link or the "report links" found throughout the FB site.

Facebook says they will be immediately sending an email from FB to the person who posted the suicidal comment encouraging them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or to a link to begin a confidential chat session with a crisis worker. Either service is available 24/7/365.

As much as people use phones today, to make contact with the younger generation, the ability to have a chat session on FB with a crisis worker, I think, helps connect to a tech savvy generation in a form they are comfortable communicating with.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Do You Relate?

Emergency operators are no stranger to receiving odd requests from callers. Wild claims and requests are our bread and butter. The stress relievers for our manic job.

Tell me, can you relate to these little pieces of news I found?

Last April, a man called 911 while he was being pulled over for a speeding ticket, pretending to report a shooting in the hopes officer would let him off the hook as they moved to respond to the fake incident.

Bet he got the idea from a television show.

Then, just a few weeks ago, a woman who said she received the wrong pills in an illegal prescription drug deal called police demanding that they track down the dealer and bring back the right goods.

I took a call similar to that where the guy admitted he bought the marijuana but it was the type or grade that the seller told him it was and wanted his money back so he could buy the good stuff.

Sorry folks, you just can't make this stuff up.

Stupid People Our Job Security

Police: Willowbrook man called 911, asked to fight a cop
By Brian Slodysko TribLocal reporter Monday at 2:28 p.m.

A 38-year-old Willowbrook man accused of calling 911 and asking to fight a police officer faces felony battery and resisting arrest charges, police said on Monday.
Police said John R. Pacella, of the 200 block of Stanhope Drive, was arrested after a 911 call from a man who “wanted to see an officer because he wanted to fight with them” about 4 a.m. on Jan. 19, police said.

When officers arrived at Pacella’s home, he shoved the officers, according to a police report.
Pacella was booked into DuPage County Jail, where he remains on $100,000 bail, according to jail records. He is charged with aggravated battery, resisting a police officer, and battery with intent to provoke or insult – all felonies – records indicate.

Willowbrook police say they have had prior contact with Pacella, who is registered sex offender.