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?

You Can’t Get There From Here

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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.

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.

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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.

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