Wednesday, October 10, 2007

You know you're a dispatcher when...

Every single one of these are true. Literally.

You know you're a dispatcher when...

1] You've ever had the urge to answer the phone by saying "Your local 411"
2] You applaud the dispatcher who was on the news last year for his comment to the unruly child's mother "Do you want us to come over and shoot him?"
3] You have the bladder capacity of five people.
4] You believe that 50% of people are a waste of good air.
5] Your idea of a good time is taking a good domestic call, an armed robbery or calling a pursuit.
6] You get excited and call every other dispatcher you know when you hear the state police screw up on the radio.
7] You would conduct a criminal record check on the parents of your children's friends, whom ever you're currently dating or anyone who is nice to you, if it were legal.
8] You believe in the aerial spraying of Prozac and birth control pills.
9] You disbelieve 90% of what you hear on the other end of the phone.
10] You have your weekends off planned for a year.
11] You pray for your relief to come in five minutes early because you have to go potty soooo bad.
12] You believe the government should require a permit to reproduce.
13] You refer to your favorite restaurant by the "nearest cross streets" to which it's located.
14] You have ever wanted to hold a seminar entitled: "Suicide...don't call me, just do it."
15] Your job description includes baby sitting the city (or county).
16] You ever had to put the phone on hold before you begin laughing uncontrollably.
17] You have ever been unable to dispatch officers on a call because the caller's name or the call itself is so ridiculous that you can't keep from laughing.
18] You think caffeine should be available in IV form.
19] You believe an officer is a hero only when he brings you in a 44oz. cappuccino.
20] People call you all hours of the night to ask you directions to strange places...and you know where they're located.
21] You claim to be a "communications officer" because it just sounds so much more important than a "dispatcher."
22] You get on the air to tell an officer to call dispatch so that you're not going over the radio when you warn him/her about the Tom Adam Robert David (TARD) they're about to encounter.
23] You do not see daylight from November until May.
24] You've ever referred to Tuesday as "my weekend", or "this is my Friday".
25] You believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says, "Boy, it sure is quiet tonight."
26] You find humor in other people's stupidity.
27] You have microwaved the same meal more than three times in order to eat warm food because everyone in the city seems to know when you're trying to eat.
28] The better you are at your job, the more you get complained on.
29] You want the social security number and finger prints of anyone interested in your younger sibling or children.
30] You have a bumper sticker or tshirt that says "I love Cops" or "Dispatchers tell cops where to go."
31] Boredom at work causes you to keep a mentally handicapped person on the phone for hours just to listen to their stories.
32] You have ever given back a plate over the radio that returns to"Seymour Wehner" or "Sharon Peters" because the officers think it's funny to hear you say dirty words on the air.

I've never had a job where I've been expected to know so many random pieces of information before. Here's just a smattering. You need to know:

  • 12-code...this is our version of the 10-code. As in "10-4 little buddy, you're loud and clear." Only, someone decided that too many people know 10-code now, so we switched to 12-code. So when a new officer comes in and keeps accidently using the 10-code, we laugh at them.
  • The phonetic alphabet...but not the normal one that everyone else uses, the freaky one. Adam, Boy, Charles, David, Edward, Frank, George, Henry, Ida, John, King, Lincoln, Mary, Nora, Ocean, Paul, Robert, Sam, Tom, Union, Victor, William, Xray, Yellow, Zebra. Now imagine how hard it can be when an officer spells a name for you to run, using this phonetic alphabet. "First of Mary...Mary, Adam, Robert, Yellow". That's 3 different names used to spell out one name. Not sure what genious thought that one up.
  • Whether complaints called in are law matter (call out the calvary) or a civil matter (tell them to go whine to the courts, the cops can't do anything).
  • Ordinances: noise, barking, parking, littering, weeds, garbage accumulation, etc. Not to mention the differences between city ordinances and county ordinances.
  • When to page out just Baker Ambulance for the county medical calls, when to not page out Baker Ambulance for county calls, when to page out both Baker Ambulance and the rural ambulance for that area for county calls.
  • Which areas of the county are covered by which rural fire departments, and who to call about fires in the areas that aren't covered by any of the rural fire departments.
  • Which page to turn to the in the pre-arrival medical book while listening to a mother scream in your ear that their child is choking/not breathing/seizuring.
  • Which radio freqency to use depending on where our deputy is in our fairly sizable county.
  • The 50 different ways you can run a licence plate, driver's license, or name/dob in order to get as much information as humanly possible on the person your officer is out with.
  • The difference between Officer, Deputy, Sgt, Lt, Detective, Sgt Detective, Chief, Sheriff, School Resourse Officer, Code Enforcement/Community Service Officer, Canine Unit...and what each one does and does not do. More what they do not do, though.

That is just a small sampling of the practical knowledge we need in order to do our job. On top of that, there is the stuff they don't list in the job description. The stuff that makes our officers' jobs easier and keeps them safe. You need to:

  • Know which officers want a Dark House list printed out each night and which officers don't.
  • Know which officers use 12-code (I'm 12-94, "I'm a-ok" in layman's terms) and which ones still use Dispo codes (I'm code 4, meaning the same thing as 12-94).
  • Know each officer's voice by heart because most of the time, when they say their unit number, you can't understand what they said but you sure as heck don't want to ask them to repeat themselves.
  • Know which officers you can joke around with and which ones you need to be completely respectful with.
  • Know which officers want their phone messages immediately via radio, which officers want their phone messages emailed to them, and which officers want their phone messages both over the radio immediately and emailed to them.
  • Know which callers you can generally trust to give you the truth (about 10% of the population) and which ones are just blowing it out of their bum (90% of the population).
  • Have a working memory of every call you've received, as well as the calls that came in during your off-time that you read about in the call screens, so that you know what the officers are talking about when they come in and ask you about a call that happened 3 weeks ago.
  • Know where your officers are at all times, even though sometimes they forget to tell you that they have gone out somewhere and you don't know it until they go 12-1 (available, back in my vehicle).
  • Be able to picture the scene no matter where it is in the county.
  • Immediately know where the street/road that the caller is calling from is located, so you know whether it's a city or county call, or whether it's even in your county.
  • Know who is dating whom, who is recently broken up, who has restraining orders against them, who is living with whom, who is selling drugs, who just recently got released from jail/prison, who is on probation, who has their licence suspended/revoked/expired. You can look most of these things up, but sometimes the officers don't ask us to run them, so we need to know, just in case.
  • Know what we can tell people without getting ourselves in trouble and what we need to keep our mouths shut about.
  • Know which people are serious about their suicide threats and which ones call frequently just to get attention.
  • Know what a drunk and/or high person sounds like over the phone.
  • Have as much as possible memorized about each of our "frequent fliers".

Essentially, we're suppose to know everything. About everyone. This is something that, until recently, I was starting to think just may be impossible. I've seen my fellow dispatchers pull random bits of information on people out of the air countless times. Would I ever be able to do that? But tonight I did. One of our officers got lied to by someone trying to cover for a significant other. When the officer came into dispatch and told us about what this person said, I was able to remember a call that came in over a month ago that proved that they were lying. This may make it possible to bring the person they were protecting to justice.

Ok, so remembering a little bit of information really isn't that big of a deal in the real world. But that is the unwritten part of my job that actually makes up about 75% of what I'm suppose to be doing as a dispatcher. And tonight showed me that I'm getting there. I still have a long ways to go before I can be dubbed a "competent dispatcher". But I'm getting there.


The Carlsons said...

no, lindy, no baby on your birthday. i'm sorry :( haha i tried!


Rachel G. said...

are you going to tell us what you did for your birthday?!

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