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?