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.

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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.

cantsleep

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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where

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.

Sheriff Boudreaux with the TCSO 9-1-1 Dispatch crew

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Hey, that’s us! That’s me, up there in the back row on the left, in glasses. On Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, we had an “all hands on deck” staff meeting.  Dispatch, along with Records, IT, and the Business office staff were on hand for a yearly confab with Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux.   We spent an informative hour with the Sheriff, as he brought us up to speed on the many projects in the works at the department.  He also took some questions, and we didn’t hold back.  It was a good meeting, with everyone looking forward to the future and the plans for the next few years.

These are the folks that handle 9-1-1 and non-emergency calls into our dispatch center. We handle calls for the Sheriff’s Office, Farmersville, Exeter, Woodlake, and Lindsay Police Departments. From missing children to shootings, this is the group that takes it all in stride, and gets help going.

It’s a great group of people, and I’ve enjoyed the 22 years I’ve been there.  I’m going to be there for a while yet, and I don’t know of any other place I’d rather work.  Well, like I’ve said before, NASA, but they don’t seem the least bit interested. Alas.

Image: Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, Facebook

 

 

10-9?

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dispatchminions
I’ve been a dispatcher for 22 years. You’d think by now I could understand any deputy or officer say any name, no matter what.  Well, you might think so, but you’d be wrong.

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Friday night at 9-1-1

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facepic-aug-2015

9 1/2 hours on channel two Friday night. A full Moon. In August. At one point, 25 units on my channel. All it takes is one to decide to do a traffic stop, then suddenly ALL of them want to do traffic stops! Fights. Parties. Loud music. More fights. No barking dogs, oddly. Reckless drivers. Drunk drivers. A couple of wrecks. Several ambulance runs, one a 15 day old difficulty breathing, one 84 year old difficulty breathing. Shots heard. Child exchanges. Child exchanges that didn’t happen, and the other parent is pissed. Welfare checks because somebody on Facebook was fishing for attention and “seemed” suicidal. Abandoned cars. People pulled over on the side of the road and being “suspicious”…. as they talked on their cell phones for 20 minutes. Drunks staggering down the shoulder of the road. More loud music calls. Crappy radios… “it’s the heat” “it’s the cold” “it’s the fog” “it’s the rain” < reasons for crappy radio transmissions. Units chomping at the bits to join the CHP’s pursuit before it runs out of the county. It ran out of the county. Bar brawl, ambulance needed. Second ambulance needed. Laceration and “asthma” (panic) attack. Juvenile calling in and harassing the dispatchers. Vulgar. Threatening. Dozens of times. Not bright, we know who he is. Cookies in dispatch. Didn’t last long. Air unit doing patrol checks. Three at a time. Put him on one, take him off. Update city unit that keyed up immediately after. Put air unit on second patrol check, take him off. Respond to deputy doing a traffic stop. Put air unit on last check, take him off. Answer the 9-1-1 line, because everybody else in the room is already on a phone. Lucky, just a quick transfer to CHP, off the phone quick. More loud music. How come we never do anything about it?? I’ve called a bunch of times! No, I don’t want contact, just make them stop! Direct the young lady who has decided at 6:30 pm on a Friday that she’d like information on becoming a police officer to call back Monday during business hours to talk to somebody about it. Another party! I have to get up at 4am! Racing vehicles… give it to CHP. Send a deputy to assist CHP, because the car they stopped has a fight between a man and woman in progress. Burglar alarms sounding, owners will only respond if it’s an actual burglary. I just got home, and I was robbed! The tweeker is not sure what’s missing, but they’re sure something was taken. It’s Friday night, the teenager has been missing since Wednesday morning, but we better go ahead and report it now.
etc.
etc.
etc.
Man, I love my job!

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