July 5, 1994 – Communications Operator I

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I walked into the building at 7am, July 5, 1994, for the first time as an employee.  Communications Operator I.  Three months of training lay ahead, and a year’s worth of probation.  The place was the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, the room was in the basement, in a space originally designed to be a gymnasium / weight lifting room.  As of today, I’ve put in 20 years in that cramped space.


Sometimes the universe just plays games with us

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Around 11pm on a Friday, just after a full Moon, on a winter day where the temperature hit 72 degrees that afternoon.  It’s almost scary.

A Day in LGBT America – The Advocate

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The Advocate asked for submissions for a piece on “A Day in LGBT America”, so I sent one in. They chose it as one of those posted on the web.  It brings up the end of the day, since I took it at 10:48 pm.


9-1-1: “Just the facts, Sir.”


Should 9-1-1 operators kiss your ass, or save it?

IMG_2363Recent news coverage of the escape of three women from a decade long imprisonment, after their kidnappings as teens, has many people commenting on a perceived lack of empathy or concern for the victims on the part of the 9-1-1 operators in Cleveland, Ohio.  Most of the criticism is unwarranted.

Amanda Berry, the woman who escaped from the house, can be heard calling 9-1-1, here. The call by the man who assisted her, Charles Ramsey, can be heard here.  Go listen, then come back and let me give you my take on the calls.

Ok, back?  Before we begin, a reminder:  I’m a 9-1-1 dispatcher.  I’ve been employed in this position by a county Sheriff’s Department in Central California since July of 1994.  Which county is not germain, as this commentary is my personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of that agency.

That said, now it’s time to decide – should the 9-1-1 operator kiss your ass, or save it?


Texting to 9-1-1 is just around the corner

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Sending text messages to 9-1-1 is something few PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Points) are ready to receive.  The ability is in the works, however, and the FCC is working with carriers and 9-1-1 centers to roll out the service beginning this year.  If you attempt to send a text message to a 9-1-1 center that is not capable of receiving it, after June 30, 2013  you will get a “bounce back” message telling you to use other means to reach 9-1-1.  Prior to June 30, you will receive no notice that your message did not go through.  Equipment upgrades and policy decisions must still be implemented in most PSAPs before they will be able to respond to text based 9-1-1 calls.  If you intend to use text messages as a way to contact 9-1-1, you should check with your local PSAP to find out when they will be able to receive and act on your message.  Until then, use voice, TTY, or relay services to reach 9-1-1.

What’s it like at 9-1-1? It’s like this…

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Our center is not as roomy or well lit (too many of my co-workers want to work in the dark!), but this video gives a great overview of most modern 9-1-1 centers.  We don’t have to do the medical pre-arrival aspect in our center, that’s handled by the Tulare County Consolidated Ambulance Dispatch staff, and the Tulare County Fire Department has their own dispatch center, but everything else is pretty spot-on.  Whatever the type of call, we deal with it first, directing it to TCCAD or TCFD if required, or taking information and dispatching Tulare County Sheriff Deputies, or police officers from Farmersville, Exeter, Woodlake, and Lindsay Police Departments.  Prince George’s County, Maryland, has a state-of-the-art 9-1-1 center, and is an example to which other centers can aspire.  Every type of incident here, except the medical instructions, is something I’ve dealt with in the past, and just when you think you’ve heard it all, the Universe will toss something at you, as if to say “oh, no you haven’t!”.

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week April 8-14, 2012

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By Chief Thomas Wagoner
Loveland (Colo.) Police Department

Someone once asked me if I thought that answering telephones for a living was a profession. I said, “I thought it was a calling.”

And so is dispatching. I have found in my law enforcement career that dispatchers are the unsung heroes of public safety. They miss the excitement of riding in a speeding car with lights flashing and sirens wailing. They can only hear of the bright orange flames leaping from a burning building. They do not get to see the joy on the face of worried parents as they see their child begin breathing on its own, after it has been given CPR.

Dispatchers sit in darkened rooms looking at computer screens and talking to voices from faces they never see. It’s like reading a lot of books, but only half of each one.

Dispatchers connect the anxious conversations of terrified victims, angry informants, suicidal citizens and grouchy officers. They are the calming influence of all of them-the quiet, competent voices in the night that provide the pillars for the bridges of sanity and safety. They are expected to gather information from highly agitated people who can’t remember where they live, what their name is, or what they just saw. And then, they are to calmly provide all that information to the officers, firefighters, or paramedics without error the first time and every time.


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