Sunday, April 24, 2016

Time to Wrap Things Up

This dispatcher is about done.  Time to wrap things up and move along.  Yes, retirement is coming soon.  Kinda forced, medical/stress, but I think a good idea.

The last nine months of my life and career have been, well, pretty messed up.  

Over the last nine months I have lost all three of my younger brothers.  Three different states.  None of them were exactly in contact with each other.  One to cancer but the other two to suicide.   In different ways but the outcome was the same.  Finding it harder to deal with the suicide calls.  Lots of anger and tears and I find it spilling out at work.  Not good.

Over the last nine months I had a mini-stroke, esophagus surgery, discovered large bleeding ulcer and preparing for iron IV therapy.  Doctor says my body is under too much stress and that there needs to be dietary and lifestyle changes as the next stroke won't be as easy to recover from and the ulcer is part of the reason for the iron IV therapy.  I am eating too many antacids which is creating another problem.

Over the last nine months there have been major leadership changes at the agency, an additional dispatcher finally hired, and a new supervisor who has never worked as a dispatcher or shift work and finds our current shift schedule of modified 5/9's difficult to keep straight so changing it to straight 5/8's to keep it more simple.  So we are changing our work lives to make things easier for someone with no shift work/dispatching experience?  What's wrong with this picture?

This blog has helped me keep my sanity so many times.  I was able to, pretty much, freely express a concern or feeling when unable to in the real world.  Sometimes I got feedback from another dispatcher who understood and sometimes could offer a word of encouragement.  

This blog saw my ups and downs.  Here I could give my opinion and not worry about offending a listener.  As far as I know only once was someone upset about my stance on an opinion.  But as this blog was for me and my edification, my opinion was what was expressed.

This blog will be hard to leave.  Maybe one day I can come back and share my life in retirement.  Naw.... it is time to bow out and turn the lights off.  I won't totally close this page though.  Will respond to comments on posts when appropriate.  

For now........... I'm 10-7.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dispatch Crafting

Odd subject on my mind today.

I am a crafter.  Give me needle and thread and fabric and I am entertained for hours.

At my last agency, even though we were very large and very very busy, many of us sat at our telephone consoles (not while we were on radio) and worked on various crafts, short of using a sewing machine for a couple.

It was an accepted method for stress relief.

But at my current small agency.... well.... not so much.

On the graveyard shift you can go a whole hour (have even gone two) without a single radio transmission or phone call.  On a Sunday it is the same pace.  And yet....

Reading a book, okay.

Working on personal business, seems okay.

But pull out some fabric and thread and it is armageddon.

I understand during business hours, or even if the brass is in the station, that the activity would be considered a no-no.  BUT.....

I know a certain senior officer who has told me they consider the activity an insult and would like to craft policy against the activity in dispatch, but as I am the only crafter, it would clearly be directed at me and thus open up the possibility of, well, more **it than worth the issue.  At this time.

My former agency only had the policy of no crafting of any sort while working radio.  They also had issues with reading of any kind except the policy manual.  But off radio, as long as you weren't stinking up the place or making too much noise, all was acceptable.

How does your agency handle this stress relieving, soul feeding, extracurricular activity?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chairs for Dispatch

In Dispatch where almost every chair is being used 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, it becomes problematic when the chair starts to fall apart, cushions go flat, they get dirty and quite often pick up a bad smell.

Many of us have been known to bring in cleaning supplies from home to keep the smell away and hopefully make them look a bit better.  In my current department we have someone very handy with tools who can do minor repairs.

As our Dispatch Center is in need of new chairs (they are flat, no longer able to clean up well, but at least they are still rolling along), I decided to take it upon myself to do a little research on chairs and their costs.

HOLY SHIT!  Have a better understanding why the brass doesn't like buying chairs for Dispatch and will do anything to keep them moving.

I was looking for a chair that was ergonomic, adjustable in height and tilt and arms, with really good padding.  In other words, 24 hour butt chairs that could accommodate all the different sizes of the dispatchers.

Many of the suppliers call 24 hour butt chairs 24/7 Heavy Duty chairs.  But the meaning is the same.

One crazy thing my now retired police officer hubby and I have been known to do is visit other LE agencies when traveling.  I love spending time in dispatch and trying to pick up new tricks to make the job easier and smarter.  And I always look at their chairs because almost every agency I have worked for tries to save money in the chairs and we Dispatchers pay the price.

The chair that I have seen in action and would love to get for our Dispatch Center costs over $800!  There are chairs advertised as Call Center Chairs and they start at almost $400 a chair.  I recognize one of them in our center.

One chair found so far admits the all steel frame  has a six year written warranty.  Another chair, similar to what we use right now, has a ten year warranty.  Our current chairs are at least seven years old.  Not quite making the ten years promised.

Okay, new respect for the budget on chairs.  But as we "live" in these chairs 9-15 hours at a time, it would be great if a little more attention was spent in the quality and durability of the chairs utilized in Dispatch.  I've heard how much the chairs for our Lt's cost and they don't live in their chairs the hours we do.

Are quality chairs only for the brass?
What chairs does your agency use?
Are they quality and durable?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Public Information Officer ... the new context

crisis comms command post: Public Information Officer ... the new context: I had the occasion last week to provide some training at the Calgary Emergency Management Agency. CEMA is one of the EM organizations leadin...

This is a great article about information sharing to the public during an active emergency.  For any dispatcher or anyone in the emergency services field, even if not the PIO, take a few minutes to read.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Training or Continued Education

They call it perishable skills training.  They call it continued education and training.  Whatever name you want to put on those 'x' amount of hours of required training a year, it is a mandated and tracked job requirement in my state. But yet my agency is very good about not enforcing the point.  And hasn't been noticed.

Correction, they are not respectful of the requirements for the dispatchers.

There are many excuses.  We run 24/7 with six dispatchers.  (Hopefully number 7 joins us soon.)  Rarely is there training nearby, so requires transportation, hotel and meals reimbursement.  The lack of variety of courses that will benefit the department (their view).

A couple of us have taken it upon ourselves to utilize the on-line courses through our state POST.  That was good until we took all they had to offer.  Even our state POST website is very limited on dispatcher online courses.

Why is it that dispatch, in particular the dispatchers, are so far down the training food chain?

When I started dispatching (yes, in a different century) there was no formal training beyond, "Here is the mike, push this little silver button to be heard.  Here is a paper log to write down what you say and what they say plus the times."  Yep, that really was my first basic dispatcher training.

I eventually worked for a larger agency, still using paper logs but now had the advantage of a foot pedal to talk on the radio.  But there was still no requirement for dispatcher training by the state.  Which meant there was little in standardized training.  I remember going to meetings with other dispatchers from the area and brainstorming ideas of what should be standardized in training and get the state POST to require such training.

When our family started to grow, and both hubby and I working shift work, and no family nearby, I made the switch to a job with more regular hours.  Here's a laugh for you.  I went to cosmetology school (this isn't the punch line yet)... 1600 hours later received my certificate to take the state board exam for my cosmetology license. Here's the punch line (want to make sure you don't miss it)... it took me longer to get my license to use a pair of scissors on someone's hair than it did for hubby to complete the Police Academy.

When I returned to dispatching a few years later there was (tah dah) the requirement of 120 hours (3 weeks) of academy training by state POST!  What?  Three, three, threeeee weeks?  That's all?  But at least a step in the right direction.  Everyone receiving some standardized training.

Now to get back to the requirement of 24 hours of continued education accrued over a 24 month (yes over two years) period.  Ugh.  Not that big of a deal, right?  A couple shifts a year and we meet the state POST requirements.  So why do we have to work so hard to get our department to give us the hours?

The very large agency I worked for, before my current small (yeah) agency, met the continued education requirements cleverly.  They purchased numerous training CD's from our state POST (most of them geared towards officers but that wasn't a big issue) that were anywhere from two hours to four hours in length.  Sometimes there would be two or four of us watching a CD.  Or one of us would on our computer during slow periods.

I have suggested we "borrow" these CD's and those shifts when there are two dispatchers on duty, have one watching a training CD.  If each dispatcher watched one CD a month we would easily meet the state POST requirements and it wouldn't be a financial burden on the agency.

Five years later.... still not happening.

How does your agency handle the continued education/training for dispatchers?