A Gentleman and a Rogue

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hug a Dispatcher this week - It's National Dispatcher's Week 9-14 APR 2012

Me at work, LAPD 911 Dispatcher


My personal passion is for writing, but the job that pays the bills is my job as a Los Angeles Police 911 Dispatcher. I work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Being is a dispatcher is not for everyone. First I had to take a written test, a typing test (I needed to type 38 words a minute) a background check, a "pee" test (for drugs) and an oral interview. From the start of the process to when I was hired took 7 months - and that was pretty fast considering. The one thing you have to be to make a good dispatcher: a good multi-tasker. That's the only real skill you need.

Why did I want to become a dispatcher? For me, it was a natural extension of what I'd been trained to do in the Army. I worked as an MP (military police) in the army. Being a dispatcher allows me to help people who really need help. It's a very rewarding feeling when you take that call and you know you've gotten the police to them in time.

For me, when I answer 911, I have to quickly evaluate a call. Is there police, fire, or medical emergency. If it's medical or fire, I transfer to the fire department. If it's a police emergency, I'll handle it. If it's a non emergency I transfer to a police operator. I also train new hires to get the job and on occasion I act in a quasi- supervisory position when I listen to the RTOs in a bureau talk directly to polic offiers. LAPD has over 21 divisions. I act as a liasion to Pacific Division. Pacific Division is 26 miles square miles and covers Venice Beach along with LAX.

I take all kinds of calls. Screaming calls, unknown troubles, batteries and traffic accidents are some examples of the calls I handle. Then I get calls like this:



That is not a 911 call. I hate to say it, it's not. Sadly, 911 Dispatchers get calls like this all the time.

Here's a funny one on the fire/medical side of the house:




National Dispatcher's Week was designated by President George H.W. Bush in 1992 to acknowledge all the hard work that dispatchers do, and I'll be honest. Answering 911 can be mentally draining. Sometimes, though, when you get those calls of hikers stranded near the Hollywood sign and you're able to get the resources out there to help them out, like the helicopter and police, it's rewarding.

I've been doing the job now for 12 years. Only 9 more to go before I retire. If you call 911 know that your dispatcher is going to be there for you.

Anyone want to share any calls they made to 911 or know of any funny calls made to 911? I'd love to hear your stories.

Smiles
Steph

18 comments:

  1. Steph, I feel your pain! I'm only a dispatcher for the security department at a Las Vegas hotel/casino, but I get those calls, too! On my side though, sometimes the officers I dispatch to are just as bad as the phone calls I get! For instance:

    "Charlie Two, head to room 3157. It's a vacant room and the former guest thinks they left their cell phone on the night stand. See if you can find it."

    "Copy. Is the vacant room occupied?"

    I also have to roll the paramedics quite a bit. We have a "red phone" that goes directly to the fire department. The majority of the calls to them I have to make though are for people who are passed out drunk!

    I loved the "Victor Fuentes" call, by the way! *chuckle*

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  2. Oh, Robert, ((hugs)). A lot of people who call in are like that.

    Person calling in: I need the police at 19345.

    Dispatcher: 19345 what?

    Person calling in: 19345. Hurry, he's got a gun.

    Dispatcher: What's the name of the street.

    Person calling in: oh.

    It's especially important to get the street since most people call in on their cell phones and they are notorious inacurate with GPS data. We're either getting the cell tower or within 500 feet of the phone.

    Yes, I had to include the Viktor Fuentes call only because he's very reflective of many of calls we get.

    Steph

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  3. Hi Steph,

    Since I'm not a dispatcher, I don't have any funny stories to tell. However, I have an experience from the other side of the phone.

    About a dozen years ago, someone in my house mistakenly dialed 911 and hung up when they realized their error. Within 15 minutes, a cop was at our door. He said because it was a 911-hangup, he was required by law to come inside and check to see that everything was all right. It was a bit mortifying. Thank goodness I wasn't the one who made the mistake.

    I'm grateful for all rescue personnel, including 911 dispatchers.

    Maggie

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  4. Maggie, if time permits, I try to call those hang ups back because they're usually in error and I can confirm that, then I don't have to send.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.
    smiles
    Steph

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  5. Fascinating Steph. I've never had to call 911, but I am grateful that the service is available. It makes me feel safer. Thank you very much for your service both in dispatch and in the Army.

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  6. Steph, it's so interesting to find out what it takes to be a dispatcher. You are so calm in the video. We need people like you. Thank you .

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  7. emergency numbers such as emergency dispatch and ER's are used by people who are often just distraught and don't know where else to turn.
    Often in inclimate weather, frightened people or homeless people would call the ER to find shelter, food or warmth. We kept the numbers for those resources available.
    I am glad to read that you keep a kind heart, an active thought process and a whole lot of patience in your work. It does take all of that to do such a job. There are always going to be those who abuse these systems intended for emergencies but sometimes it is out of ignorance. It sounds like you're the perfect person for the job. It can be so fulfilling to know you helped someone.
    Great blog, Steph.

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  8. Rue, thank you for your kind words. I'm very rewarded personally when I know I've helped a good person out who truly calls in the case of an emergency.

    Mona, that's not me on the Burger King tape. It all depends on my mood. Sometimes I'll be like that and enterain them, sometimes we'll be real busy so I'll interupt and get the off the line so I can take another call. BUT you have to do it in a way that's not rude, which is the challenge.

    Sarah, yes, we have shelter numbers and referal numbers for those who are frightened and just a need a place as well. I think the key word is patience, just like you mentioned. Without it, these people would drive you crazy.

    Steph

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  9. Kudos to you and all the dispatchers out there. I'm know I would never be able to do this job. I don't work well under stress. Thankfully there are others that can!

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    1. Susan, I'd like to note the attrition rate, those who don't make it through the training, is 50%. That's pretty high. You're right when you say this job isn't for everyone. I admire those who try, though.

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  10. Steph, too funny! Dispatchers ROCK. Actually in Artful Dodging (coming out mid-April from Secret Cravings) I have a scene with the dispatcher & the heroine that I still laugh at after umpteen edits! Hope you get a chance to read it! M. S. Spencer

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Ms. Spencer. *smiles* You've all ready got me hooked! I'll be on the look out for your book.

      Smiles
      Steph

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  11. Steph, my hat's off to you. You do a super-important job every day and not many people can say that. In my area, we're just recovering from a brush fire that began in a State park and destroyed 450 acres. Puny by California standards, but in my part of PA it was a real eye-opener. We haven't had a blaze like that in 100 years, but unusual heat and drought coupled with high winds and a downed power line did us in. The calls first made to 911 dispatchers quickly drew firefighters, paramedics, state and local police, parks and recreation personnel, game wardens, Boy Scouts, local sporting groups, volunteers--I can't even think how many people responded. The entire community turned out, risking their own vehicles and equipment to create firebreaks, and it all started with 911. We had some folks evacuated when the fire neared a fireworks factory, but any loss of life or property was averted. And again it all started with those first calls to 911.

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    1. Miriam thanks so much for sharing your experience. That first call is so important and my response as that dispatcher is critical. We have what is called a "hotshot" broadcast with the just the basics - the type and the location. The sooner I can make that broadcast and get resources moving the better. Then I stay on the line and get more information. Seconds can count in a response. Good to hear there was no loss of life out your way.

      Smiles
      Steph

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  12. Hey Steph I've had the chance to call 911 several times. Twice for my husband, my sister called for me the last time. Then I had to call to report being robbed. I listened to the recording before the trial and I looked at neice that was with me and asked her do I really sound like that? It is a hard job you have. Thank you for doing it.

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  13. I forgot here's a cyber hug.

    ((STEPH)) This is how we do it in the online spades leagues I play in when I need a break.

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  14. I always thought that had to be a stressful job. My hat's off to you.

    I used to work for a long-distance phone company in customer service. People would call about phone calls on their bills they didn't recognize, and a lot of them were international (usually sex lines!). This was before the Internet (we had CRT computers!) so we could only call those numbers to see what they were.

    So we had to dial 9 for the outside line, then 011 for international call, then the country code and number. I was the first, but not the only, to dial too fast and the "0" didn't register. I was so shocked when I got 911 that I hung up. Of course, they called me right back. I felt terrible for wasting their time, but now that I've heard that Burger King call...

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  15. Natalie, it's amazing how telephony technology has come in just a few years, isn't it. Funny about the sex lines. hehe.

    If you accidently call 911 stay on the line long enough to let me know that it's an accident. It saves me a lot of time. I'll take you at your word, trust me.

    Smiles
    Steph

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