I’ve decided. I’m jumping off that building.

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Yep. From a top floor balcony. Right over the edge.

No, I’m not depressed, or suicidal.

I’ll be joining up to 91 other “jumpers” as we rappel down the (other) side of one of the tallest buildings in Visalia. And it’s all for a good cause.

We’ll be participating in “Visalia Over the Edge“, a fundraising campaign for The Source LGBT+ Center. The Source is Tulare and Kings Counties LGBT+ community and resource center, currently operating out of a small office space in downtown Visalia. (208 W. Main, Suite B, Visalia. Downstairs in the Montgomery Square.) We’ve outgrown our center, and need to raise money for expansion to a larger facility. This event will kick off our fund-raising efforts to acquire a building large enough to serve our communities.

I had to think about this for a while before committing to taking part, as I’m a bit unsettled by heights. (oddly, not while in a helicopter or plane. Mostly when looking down the side of a tall building. That glass observation thing, the Sky Deck, on the Sears Tower? You’d never get me to step into that.) I’ve decided I’m going to do it, regardless. I’ll convince myself by saying it’s a “bucket list” experience, and off we’ll go. Over the side. Nine floors. That’s not all that high, right?

I’ve set a goal of $2,500 to be raised, essentially by begging. 😉  The minimum to “jump” is $1,000 but I wanted to go a bit bigger. So…

This is me begging you for some money! Yep, hat in hand, asking “buddy, can you spare a dime? Or $20? Or $100?” Here’s the link to my fund-raising page, please go there and give The Source LGBT+ Center some money. I’ll be ever so grateful.

On November 10th, 2018, come join us at the Marriott, and watch as they toss this dispatcher Over the Edge!

Just don’t call 9-1-1, even if I’m screaming, please.

Where I chat with Los Angeles Police Department Communications on Twitter

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So today on my Twitter feed, @KC6YRU, this popped up from the Communications Division of the Los Angeles Police Department. In case the font is a bit difficult to read, here’s a recap:

Poll: On average, how long does it take to fully train a new Police Service Representative (Public Safety Dispatcher) at ?”

Choices are 12 weeks, 24 weeks, or 46 weeks. Most respondents got the correct response, 46 weeks.

The next Tweet is what caught my eye.

Great job and thanks for answering our poll. It takes nearly a full year to train a new PSR (46 weeks average). The training is two phases: Dispatcher (RTO) then Call-taker (EBO). The training consists of classroom, simulations and hands-on.

It was interesting to me that LAPD trains on radio first, then on phones. That’s the reverse at what we do at our agency. I Tweeted at LAPDCD:

“You train radio first? That’s interesting. We do phones and CLETS first, radio after.”

They replied moments later (somebody’s working on a weekend):

We do. The PSR position must be able to perform both functions; radio and phones. Historically, radio has been the more difficult of the two, so we train on that first.”

That’s true for us, as well. The radio will kick your ass. It did mine, and I already knew the area, radio codes, and was an experienced ham radio operator, so I did not experience “mic fright” (a very real thing for new dispatchers). It’s even more difficult for folks who have to learn all of that stuff from scratch.

Our training program has evolved since I was a newbie (24 years ago), from three months of combined radio/phones to a much longer process. Now, we train on phones and paperwork first (there’s a ton of “paperwork” these days, even if most of it is on the computer), then radio. As I was thinking about it, it seemed to me that by doing it this way, we build up the confidence of the trainee that they really can handle whatever gets thrown at them. By the time they get to radio training, they’ve handled a ton of 9-1-1 calls, not to mention the endless routine phone traffic.

LAPD has one of the largest communications divisions in the country, so they know what they’re doing. I wonder what their wash-out rate is, and how long they keep new hires?

My interest in law enforcement dispatching undoubtedly stems from endless reruns of Adam-12 in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s.

“Adam-12, see the man, a 415 in progress. Adam-12, handle code-2”

And of course the opening credits:

“Adam-12, a 211 in progress. Adam-12, handle code-3”

(they never did say where the 211 was located, but the good ole’ Adam-12 car was shown rolling code-3… somewhere.)

 

Melatonin induced dreams – the latest

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melatonin_dreamsOne of the side effects of taking Melatonin to help you sleep is “intense dreams”. I’m discovering that “intense” for me means “really weird”, and that I remember them once I awaken. Here’s last night’s strange tale.

It starts with me sitting in my truck, a ’92 Ford Ranger, in the parking area adjacent to, but not at, a set of gas pumps at a convenience store. The engine is running. I almost never do that, just sit somewhere (other than a drive-thru) with the engine running.

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Not really my truck.

For some reason, my truck has a camper shell. In reality, my truck does not. I’ve never even considered putting a shell on the truck. Anyway, sitting in the truck, engine running.

So far, not a really weird dream. But it starts veering into, if not weird, then at least strange. And I remember it, when I usually don’t, so there’s that.

Sitting in the gas station parking lot, engine running, when a woman of indeterminate age, possibly early 20’s, maybe early 30’s, comes roaring up to the gas pumps and screeches to a stop, in an older, mid-size heap of a car. She’s dressed like…  well, there’s no real polite way to say it…

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Day shift update. The journey so far.

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typically_dayshift Well, it’s been almost a month, now. Time for a day shift update.

For 23 years and 2 months, I’ve worked night shift.

By choice. I’m not a morning person. Never have been.

Some observations about 9-1-1 dispatching on day shift:

There’s a lot more of these (nonsensical, in my opinion) pleasantries about how I’m doing. You really don’t care if I’m having a good day, do you? I (usually) have to fib and tell you “I’m fine, thanks”, and then I’m obligated to ask how you are. Really, unless you’re calling in with a 9-1-1 call, it’s not any of my concern.

It’s not that I’m heartless or unfeeling. I hope you are having a wonderful day. But my knowing that doesn’t change our conversation, and there’s likely nothing I can do to make your day better if you’re having a bad one* and decide to tell me about it. Both sides of that conversation just distract from, and delay, the reason you called me in the first place. Do you need information, a phone number** , or any other of a hundred other different things I might be called upon to do for somebody?  The fact that it’s 9 am, and I should be sound asleep right now doesn’t make for a cheery “I’m great, thanks for asking” mood. Bah, humbug.

Lunch is much more of a hassle now. I have to wait until 1 pm, to try to avoid the worst of the lunch rush at nearby restaurants.

Traffic is annoying. Where the hell did all these cars come from? Why are they blocking the intersection?

Pedestrians leaving College of the Sequoias – look up from your damned phones! You’re going to walk right in front of a car if you keep that up.

Who the heck are these eleven-hundred units on my radio channel, and why don’t they follow protocol?

These twelve hour shifts are kicking my ass. You’d think two more hours wouldn’t be that bad, but the accumulative effect is already wearing me down. Having four days off every other week helps, but by the third day, I’m feeling it. On the long week, where I work four days, it’s very fatiguing. And that’s what we all need, right? A 9-1-1 dispatcher who is suffering from fatigue.

I was written up on the second day. For wearing jeans. I’ve been wearing jeans for all of my 23+ years in dispatch. Now I have to wear “slacks”. That required a hit on the JCPenny credit card I wasn’t planning on.

Oh, and day shift means I’m taking a $200 a month pay cut. Wonderful.

So as not to be completely negative, here are a few positives of day shift:

There’s a bit more eye candy coming through the door. That’s a double-edged sword, for sure. <sigh>

I’m sure there must be some more positives. I’m having trouble coming up with them right now, though. Maybe I’ll think of something later, and can edit this entry with them. Let’s both hold our breath on that, OK? (spoiler alert: I’m not holding my breath)

I’m staring at six months of day shift, before I can go back to nights. If you call in to my dispatch center during the day, and talk to a grumpy old man, that’s probably me. Sorry, after 23 years my ability to adjust to this change just isn’t going to happen quickly.

 

*again, unless you’ve dialed 9-1-1, and 99.9% of the time, you’re not going to ask me how I am. Although it does happen, strangely enough. Even for real emergencies. Haven’t figured that one out yet.

**although I’m not supposed to be a switchboard or 4-1-1 operator – that’s a pet peeve of mine. You no doubt are speaking to me on a device that can store literally hundreds, if not thousands, of phone numbers, or has the ability to look them up on the Internet. Why are you bothering me? It’s not like I don’t have anything else to do right now.

Day shift – by a night person

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notsleptwellI’ve been a night person since high school. Maybe even before. With only a couple of exceptions, I’ve avoided jobs where I had to be at work early in the day.

For a short time, less than a year I think, I worked for an agricultural survey company, and had to be at work at 6am in the summer, and 7am in the winter. That was not enjoyable. I even turned down an offer to promote up to a foreman’s position, simply because I really disliked early hours.

For the past 23 years and 3 months, I’ve worked as a night shift 9-1-1 dispatcher. I long ago reached a seniority level that lets me pick where I want to be, and ever since then, my choice has been nights. In my jobs prior to dispatching, I almost always worked nights. When I started this job, in 1994, I had three months of training. It was day shift. I lost 15 pounds. (I weighed about 150 when I first started. I didn’t have 15 pounds to spare!) When training was done, I was assigned to night shift, which didn’t bother me at all. Working weekends did, but that was tolerable. I never looked back, and never went to day shift, even when I worked my way up the seniority list and it became possible. (I’ve also put on almost 25 pounds in those 23 years. A pound a year… not bad.)

Now, all of a sudden, I’m on day shift.

I’m not a happy camper.

Seems someone decided we needed to go from four – ten hour shifts, to twelve hour shifts with a complicated pattern to insure we only have eighty hours in two weeks. To avoid being paid overtime, you see. (That’s why my pay period ends in the middle of one of my shifts. So at the end of eighty hours, the pay period starts over. My thoughts about this would probably get me written up, so I’ll just leave it to the gentle reader’s imagination.)

Now, I work the following nonsense: Monday, 7 am to 7 pm. Tuesday, 9 am to 7 pm. Wednesday 7 am to 7 pm. Every other Thursday 7 am to 7 pm. In three months, I’ll go to the same pattern, but at the other end of the week, so I’ll have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and every other Thursday off. Then in three more months, I’ll go to 7 pm to 7 am on the first pattern, working nights. Then three months later, the opposite night shift.

This, we were told, will improve morale. And reduce overtime. I don’t buy either explanation. We’ll see how the OT works out, but I can tell you *MY* morale is not improved.

I’m dead tired. I can barely sleep, and what sleep I do get does not seem to leave me ready to start my shift. We’re barely two weeks into trying to change a 30+ year pattern, and it’s not working. The melatonin my doctor suggested doesn’t seem to do much (yet – he said give it 30 days. I’m thinking that would just be me getting used to the change, but what do I know? He’s the doctor. But not *THAT* Doctor!) There’s a side effect of melatonin… “intense” dreams. Mine have just been weird, but not particularly intense.

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I’ve been trying to get to bed by 10 pm each night. That just seems completely nuts, but to rise at 6 am, I need time to fall asleep. I have never done that quickly, unless I’m just completely exhausted. I’ve been fighting to stay awake at work, but when I get home and get into bed, sleep doesn’t come. Or when it does, finally, it’s not deep or restful. The first few nights I just layed awake in bed until about 30 minutes before my alarm was due to go off. That’s the normal time I usually go to sleep. My body doesn’t want to change after so many decades.

I’m not used to feeling run down and sleepy at work. I’m worried my concentration is going to flag at a critical moment, and I’ll miss something. I’m not used to coming home and being exhausted. I’m hoping this will pass, and I’ll get used to the new shift, but so far no cigar. Not even a Tiparillo.

So far, I’ve resisted increasing my caffeine intake, but I may have to go back to always having a Pepsi at hand.

Oh, and did I mention…  I don’t like day shift.

9-1-1 envy

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The City of Visalia opened it’s new communications center to the public today, and now I have a serious case of dispatch center envy.

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Their new center is spacious, well laid out, modern, and will be a joy for their staff to work in… especially since the current center is a small room in the basement of the police station downtown.

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This center will serve the needs of Visalia for the next fifty years or more.

Tulare County really needs to get on the ball and upgrade it’s 9-1-1 dispatch center, which is also in a small room in a basement. (It’s supposed to be moved upstairs to a somewhat larger room (with windows!) soon, but “soon” in government speak is always vague.) Plans to move it to the new Cigna building at Akers and Tulare are on “hold”, probably forever (my pessimism is creeping in here), and I doubt it will ever be there. The county should follow the City of Visalia’s lead, and build a dedicated 9-1-1 communications center. (especially since the county missed the boat and… ‘declined’… to join with Visalia and consolidate the centers into one building.)

Congratulations, Visalia. You’ve got a well laid out, modern, functional emergency communications center that will serve the city for a long time. I’m green with envy.

I wonder if it’s a time to consider a change in my work venue?

You Can’t Get There From Here

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Twice this weekend I’ve been confronted with addresses which don’t exist. In one case, I was going to pick someone up, and in the other, I was asked why 9-1-1 could not find the scene of an accident. In both cases, the wrong address was given.  Neither of these incidents involved my employment as a 9-1-1 dispatcher, I was “off-duty”, but both required my skills as a dispatcher to figure out and solve.

Scenario one:

I was going to Fresno to pick up a person to take to lunch. The address I was given popped up in my phone’s mapping app with no problem, so I drove right to the spot indicated. Trouble was, no house in the area had the actual number I was looking for. I called the person, and he indicated that, yes, it was the correct address. He stepped out and looked for me, but I saw no one, and he didn’t see me. As we discussed the problem, he mentioned he was in a neighborhood that I knew was nowhere close to where I was, but was clear across town. I headed that way. Once I got into the area in question, I was still unable to find the correct address. We talked some more, and I tried to get cross streets. Once I figured out where he was, I realized he had given me the correct numbers, but the wrong street! He was giving me the cross street, not the street on which the house was actually located. To top it off, the house in question was across the street from someone I knew! It took an hour extra to find him (Fresno is a rather large city, and traffic is a pain), and all because he didn’t know the correct address to the house in which he was staying. I eventually found him, and we had a nice lunch at Irene’s in the Tower District and then a visit to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. An enjoyable day, after the wandering around Fresno for an hour.

Scenario two:

This incident was due to difficulties had when someone called 9-1-1 and gave an incorrect location for a traffic accident. The wrong street name was given, and the 9-1-1 dispatcher could not get it to “geo-base” in the dispatch computer. As far as the computer was concerned, there was no such place. The CHP dispatcher, being in Fresno and not familiar with a rural location outside of Visalia, could not figure out where the accident was located. When asked for a cross street, the caller said there was none. (Their is always a cross street, it just might be a long distance away.)  Roads in cities often continue out into county areas, and as such the designations usually change to a county name. Sometimes they don’t, and this might create greater confusion. This particular incident involves a street originating in Visalia, and extending out almost to Farmersville.

Mineral King Avenue is now a frontage road to Highway 198 as it passes through Visalia. It is on the north side of the freeway, and Noble avenue is the frontage road on the south side. As we continue east out of the city, the Mineral King becomes Avenue 296. Sometimes. It shows up on many on-line maps as Mineral King all the way to it’s terminus east of county Road 168. The end of the road is where this accident occurred, as a vehicle crashed onto property at the end of the frontage road.

Many people, and some on-line maps, call this frontage road “Mineral King Avenue”, even though it’s correct designation east of the Visalia city limits is Avenue 296. The frontage road on the south side of the freeway experiences the same issue. It is Noble Avenue in the city of Visalia, but changes to Avenue 295, like Mineral King changes to Avenue 296, at the city limits. Except there are places as you approach Farmersville where the name changes back to Noble, and new numbering is used, as the locations are in that city. These changes cause no end of confusion, as was the case in this call to 9-1-1.  Once the correct address was determined, emergency units could respond.

The lesson to be learned here? As I’ve often said, *YOU* have to know where you are. That means you have to know the correct address, not just what you assume it to be. Every place has an address, and it’s up to you to know what that is, or at least to know the closest cross streets.

It’s an imperfect world out there, and you just have to adapt to that imperfection. Unless you do, you’re likely to have someone tell you that where you’re at doesn’t exist.

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