I may have worked my last night shift

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face-screaming-in-fear I may have worked my last night shift.

After 24 1/2 years, almost all of them on night shift, Monday begins the next rotation, to day shifts. I’m not looking forward to it.

My first three months, way back in the summer of 1994, were on dayshift during my training. Once released (yes, three whole months of training back then), I went to swing shift, 5pm to 3am. I stayed there, with a couple of switches to graveyard (9pm to 7am), until October of 2017, when we began our new 12 hour shifts.  That put me on days, 6 am to 6 pm.  After six months of that mess, my team rotated to nights. Now it’s that time again, and back we go to days.

But why may I have worked my last night shift? Because by the time we rotate back to nights, I hope to be retired!

July or September, depending on a few things. But regardless, I hope to be out of there before we rotate back to nights.

That also means I’ll never work in a new dispatch center. By the time one gets up and running, I’ll be long retired. Sigh.

Oh well.

Road trip!

 

“At the tone, the time will be…”

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These kind of things are going to make an old man out of me!

… to f’n late in my day.

A mandatory meeting for work, held three hours after getting off a twelve hour shift.

In a 9-1-1 center.

I should be sound asleep now, but duty calls. Or something like that.

Good thing I love my job. (most of the time)

Don’t bother me later, I’ll be asleep!

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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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.)

 

Dayshift update: Nightshift soon

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night-owl-vectorA week to go. The six months of dayshift are winding down, with four shifts left before the “team” I’m on switches to nights. My previous posts have explained how I really don’t like day shifts. The fatigue has diminished as I adjusted to working days after more than 23 years on nights, but it has never gone completely away. Trying to acclimate to a work day starting at 7am has been tough. Now, just as it might be finally happening, I’ll be back on nights.

I quit the melatonin as quickly as I could, as it didn’t seem to help, and gave me “intense” (i.e. weird) dreams. My sleep has become a bit more restful, but combined with 12 hour shifts, I haven’t felt this tired, for this long, in… like ever. It’s a fatigue that just never goes completely away. I’m hoping going back to nights will be a quicker and easier transition.

And guess what? We’re losing several dispatchers in the near future. One has already quit, and others are moving on to other jobs. We’ll be short staffed. Again. That means more overtime will have to be filled (something this new schedule was supposed to cut way down on.), and I’m certain we’ll end up with assigned overtime. The solution to these problems seems simple to me, but the county doesn’t seem to think the center needs more bodies. Please stay on the line, your call will be answered by the next available operator.

So, only a few more days on days. Then 12 hour night shifts. It’s weird. So far, most of my dayshifts have had me going to work in the dark, and then coming home in the dark. Now, I’ll be going to nights, and coming to work in the daylight, working in the dark, and going home in the light. That’s not going to mess with my bio-rhythms, is it?

I used to say I loved my job. I still do, but I no longer look forward to going to work. Hurry up retirement. I’m fading fast.

 

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?

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