The calendar said it was Monday. My phone said it was Monday. The newspaper said it was Monday. Tulare County seemed to think it was Friday. Friday of a full Moon. On a Friday the 13th.
It started off quietly enough. A nice staffing level, not much going on, things running fairly smoothly. A nice, calm, reasonable Monday at 9-1-1. The officers and deputies were all out getting into their routines, as Mondays are generally the beginnings of work weeks for them. Some subpoenas to be served, maybe a warrant or two, and informants to be talked to, in order to glean intel over events that occurred on the weekend. We were settling in there in dispatch, looking forward to sedate work shift. We should have known better. Just when you think it’s all good…
“WHO SHOT YOUR MOTHER??”
That’s the phrase that led our descent into chaos, nearly shouted by the Duty Officer, on a 9-1-1 call…
It wasn’t a joke. Sometimes we do that, once in a great while, after picking up a 9-1-1 hang up and finding nobody on the line. Just a little prod to the room, to see who’s listening. It’s always great to see the newbies cringe when someone pops up with that little gem. This time, it was no joke.
It was a weird day all day. As we came in at 5pm, dayshift regaled us with the unusual number of deaths that required a Deputy Coroner to respond to that day. A number of other calls rounded out a crazy Monday. We assumed night shift would be better behaved. You know what they say about assuming something…
“WHO SHOT YOUR MOTHER??”
Not even an hour and a half into the shift, this one resounds across the room, and it only takes seconds to determine it’s the real thing. Other 9-1-1 lines begin ringing, and in moments the room is in a state of barely controlled chaos. (It’s actually very organized and well orchestrated, but to the uninitiated bystander, it looks and sounds like chaos. It’s not.)
A family dispute turns deadly, with a man shooting and killing his wife, with some of the other family members present. He then barricades himself in the residence, and refuses to come out. This initiates an all-night affair with calling out the SWAT team, hostage negotiators, detectives, research into records, and endless phone calls and coordination, that can only be done by dispatch.
While all this is unfolding, the routine calls and responses of any 9-1-1 center continue to come in, and need attention. We can’t drop everything else and tend only to the shooting, there are still ambulances that need dispatching to injuries, fire calls that need fire trucks, and calls about loud music that have to be answered.
While we’re dealing with the homicide and barricaded suspect, we get not one, but two home invasion robbery calls, one where the victim had been tied up for an hour before he got free and called 9-1-1. A short time later, a burglary in progress call came in. Then a fight in progress. It just didn’t stop. Now, we can handle all this pretty well. After all, it’s what we’re trained to do. The support we give each other in dispatch is a joy to watch, and things get jumped on and handled as quickly as they come in.
This is the point where the Universe decided we needed a bigger challenge. The computers crashed. But, they didn’t crash all the way, they only partially crashed. We had some computer access, but not all. We could see some information, but not all. As we’re trying to deal with the shooting and other incidents, and are taking in progress emergencies, the computer screens just blink out! The tech took them down without warning after a few attempts to reset various “modules” in the program. When that didn’t work, the good old standby computer fix was implemented… shut the damned thing off, and turn it back on. It didn’t help.
We finally got the county to calm down, got the barricaded suspect out of the house, under arrest, and on his way to a hospital for evaluation. That’s when the computer decided to recover and begin working properly. The tech the tech called to fix the system said he thought too many mobile units tried to log on at one time while responding to the SWAT callout, and it crashed the computer. Whatever the cause, we were just glad to have it back. Dispatching in the 21st century with 20th century paper and pencil is not fun. We survived, though.
So I’ve decided that there was some kind of flux in the space-time continuum, probably generated by the annular eclipse yesterday, and we managed to warp into a full Moon Friday the 13th. It’s the only explanation that makes any sense. I hope tomorrow isn’t a Saturday.