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.