When is a zero not a zero?

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no-zeroWhen is a zero not a zero? Turns out, when it’s an ‘o’.

For almost 25 years, I’ve been a 9-1-1/law enforcement dispatcher. One task of many in dispatching is to check DMV, DOJ, and national databases for registration and stolen status on vehicles. These checks are usually done by the license plate number, but sometime we have to use the Vehicle Identification Number, also known as the VIN.

From day one of my training, way back in 1994, I was told there are two characters never used in VINs. The letter ‘o’, and the letter ‘i’. This is because they are generally indistinguishable from zeros and ones, especially on VIN plates located on vehicle dashboards or engines. Simple. Every time you see 0 or 1 in a VIN, they are numbers, not letters.

Until yesterday.

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When is an emergency not an emergency?

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“Big hands”? You decide.

I know emergencies, and, let me tell you, this isn’t one of them!

Betcha’ thought I was going to talk to you about 9-1-1 calls, didn’t you?

Nope, this time it’s all about a grifter who managed to get himself elected President of the United States invoking emergency powers to bypass Congress and the Constitution.

Can you imagine the hue and cry if President Obama had declared a national emergency, bypassed Congress, and imposed single payer?  Our health care system actually is in crisis, but the GOP would have blown it’s collective gasket.

The Republicans and their base, however, are just fine with Hair Furor attempting an end run around the Constitution and the funding mechanisms of the United States government.

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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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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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