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?

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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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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!

July 5, 1994 – I start telling cops where to go, and sometimes how to get there

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Jimmie1

A few years into my career with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office.

July 5, 1994  That was the first day I walked into the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office building as an employee.  Twenty one years ago today, I thought “this will be a breeze!”.  Little did I know…

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Missouri Sheriff puts “IN GOD WE TRUST” on every patrol car

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Photo: Valerie Mosley/News-Leader

Jim Arnott is the Sheriff of Greene County, Missouri.  He recently had “IN GOD WE TRUST” lettering added to about 100 patrol cars because, as he said, “I like it“.

I became aware of this through the Facebook page “Sheriff Deputies“, when they posted the picture to the news feed. Disappointingly, it’s getting a lot of approval from others.  Few seem to understand, or even care, why it is highly inappropriate for this kind of religious proselytizing to exist in a government agency.

Our own community has recently had issues with law enforcement lending it’s imprimatur to a purely religious ceremony, and many are defending the decision of government officials to attend.  Here, they’ve dismissed the connection with the keynote speaker, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, a designated hate group, as inconsequential.  The Sheriff told the Visalia Times Delta that he didn’t “get any detailed information about Perkins and his reported agenda until after he and his command staff left”.  At least the Sheriff here is claiming ignorance of Perkins and his agenda, but the Missouri Sheriff is more direct in his statements.

Sheriff Arnott has unilaterally decided that his religious beliefs can be displayed on government property as he sees fit.  Since most people in his area are Christians, few see any problem with the idea.  They seem to view the idea of the long-established legal concept of separation of church and state to mean government cannot intrude on religion, but religion is free to intrude and impose on government.

A person who had questioned the wording on patrol cars garnered this reaction from Sheriff Arnott:

I’m guessing she is offended by it. If that’s the case. I’m hoping that she does not use any of our currency either.”

U.S. currency carries the legend “In God We Trust.”

Many city councils, county supervisors chambers, and other government structures have “IN GOD WE TRUST” prominently displayed, and it’s pretty much impossible to find elected officials, or even bureaucrats, who are willing to challenge the placement of clearly religious wording in government facilities.  The Supreme Court didn’t help matters by ruling in favor of those who want religion wrapped around their government.

I find it disappointing that so many are content to allow government to grant a seal of approval to religious dogma, in clear violation of the idea that it should be completely neutral when it comes to such matters.  They’re quite happy with the mixing of church and state, as long as it’s their church.  I wonder how complacent they would be if it said “ALLAHU AKBAR”? Or “IN VISHNU WE TRUST”?  Changing the name of the god should make it clear why any of them are inappropriate.  If the Sheriff and his deputies want such sentiments on the cars they drive, let them put them on their own vehicles.  Patrol cars are not the place to, as we LGBT advocates have been accused of doing every time we talk about rights, “shove it down our throats” in public.

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