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.

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I think his name was Murphy

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murphys_law

Sometimes the universe conspires to bring together a multiplicity of situations, each of which would be a minor problem on it’s own, but when combined create potential for deadly mayhem.  Last night I experienced that perfect storm, and it could end badly. Here’s a list of the things that could go wrong, and did:  He didn’t call on a 9-1-1 line, and he didn’t speak English. Once a translator was on the line, he didn’t mention the single most important fact of the situation, or the translator failed to properly understand the emergency.  He started off asking to speak to a particular officer, but mangled the name so badly that I had no clue who he was referring to, and wasted precious time trying to figure out who he might have meant.  After much too much time was wasted on what would turn out to be unimportant details, he got around to explaining the problem. I about fell out of my chair once I understood what he was trying to convey.  I was yelling for an ambulance to start, getting deputies responding code 3, and basically cursing him and the translator (to myself, never out loud) for beating around the bush when speed was of the essence.

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You found what?? And you did what with them???

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GrenadesSometimes you really have to wonder.

Tonight we received a call on 9-1-1 from a woman who said she was in our parking lot and needed to have a deputy come out to speak to her immediately.  When asked why she needed a deputy, she said she had been clearing out her deceased mother’s residence and had discovered two hand grenades, had brought them here, and needed someone to come get them.

That of course required the local bomb squad be called out, as the initial deputies determined that they appeared to be real, live grenades.

One of the incredible things about this caller was that she was getting very upset that we were unable to get someone out to her in four minutes, so she called back wanting to know what the delay was about.  (the deputies are out on patrol, not in the building!)  We got someone out shortly thereafter, they called the bomb squad, and the grenades were disposed of by the bomb techs.  It didn’t dawn on her, apparently, that handling and transporting them was probably more dangerous than sitting in the parking lot waiting!

Sigh.

Rule of grenades (or other explosive devices) #1 – Leave them alone, and call 9-1-1!  Don’t pick them up, don’t drive them someplace in your car, and don’t get huffy with the 9-1-1 operator trying to help you!

Rule of grenades (or other explosive devices) #2 – See rule #1

Hey! Donkey! (said in your best Shrek voice)

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Donkeyshrek

So every once in a while, the routine stuff gets to be a bit fun to play with.  Even if most of the funny is only in my own head.

Full Moon Effect Disproven

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Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 5.14.47 AMI’ve been steadfast and firm in my conviction.  For years I’ve maintained, in the face of unrelenting public opinion to the contrary, that the full Moon has no effect on “the crazy”.

People claim that emergency room nurses and police officers all swear by the “full Moon” lore, that insists everything goes nuts on a full Moon.

Well, last night I disproved it.  Or, I should say, my dispatch center’s traffic levels disproved it.

Last night, at 6:45 pm Pacific Time, the Moon was full.  It was a calm, peaceful night.  No shootings, no stabbings (well, no stabbings by one person on another. There was one troubled kid who tried to stab himself, but for this discussion, he doesn’t count.  He’s just a troubled kid, not a lunatic.)  A few fights, a couple of loud music calls, a couple of badge bunnies, and a computer at one of the facilities that decided to let all the magic smoke out of it’s innards, setting off smoke alarms and scaring the DSOs.  A really easy shift, all things considered.

Now, the night BEFORE the full Moon, that was just crazy town!

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Oh, I didn’t just say that…

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dohI can’t believe I said that to the 9-1-1 caller.  It was unintentional, totally inappropriate, and had everyone in the room in fits of giggles.

Other dispatchers will understand the sometimes dark humor we express in our jobs, and how something that to an outside observer (or the brass) will seem completely humorless, but will have us guffawing and giggling for hours afterwards.  Something like that happened to me yesterday, and it involved a crashed aircraft and it’s pilot stuck on a rockface above a lake.

I really meant it to be reassuring, but it sure didn’t come out that way!

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Call 9-1-1 First!

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picard-facepalmIt happened again!  Someone called someone else who called someone else, who called 9-1-1!  SMH

An armed robber walked up to a food stand, brandished a firearm, and demanded cash.  The clerk didn’t understand English, and the bad guy ran off.  Rather than call 9-1-1, she called her boss, who called someone else, who called the police!

While all this was going on, an armed suspect was making his get-away, and since nobody bothered to tell anyone the description of the robber, we have no way to spot him while units are enroute.

RULE #1 – Call 9-1-1 first!  It doesn’t matter what language you speak, we can get a translator on the line quicker than you can call someone else, tell them what happened, and then have them call.

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