Saturday, July 2, 2011

Dispatch Centers and Holiday Weekends

Friday kicked off the Fourth of July weekend. In many Communications Centers, henceforth referred to as Dispatch, the Dispatchers are paid time & a half - or on certain holidays double time - for working on holidays (this is known as premium pay). I won't get in to the compensation details, but the Department I work for has, due to budget issues, reduced our compensations. It is what it is.

Holidays means extra work for Dispatch Centers. With budget cuts, many of the open positions are going unfilled until 'better times' allow for hiring. Why are dispatcher positions open? Retirements, resignations, personnel unable to pass probation, or a dispatcher leaving due to a work comp injury or termination. So many of the Dispatch Centers work short staffed, or at minimal staffing.

Back to holiday weekends. At the agency I work for, Fourth of July means heavy traffic on the State's lakes and reservoirs, especially Lake Mead, Lake Mojave, and Lake Tahoe. Wardens, in conjunction with other State and Federal agencies patrol the lakes to maintain the peace throughout the weekend. This patrol only differs from regular street patrol in that is on the water instead of on a city street. Wardens run vessels to check for current registration. Persons are ran to check for wants, license (fishing), and driver's licenses. They assist in rescues, disabled vessels, and other emergencies.

Inside Dispatch, the activity increases as the day progresses. Dispatch splits the regions amongst those on duty. Typically, Lake Mead is the busiest, but major incidents can happen anywhere in the State, on land or on water. We also dispatch for other agencies and they also have extra personnel on duty in National Parks within the State. Those law Enforcement Officers (LEO) also keep us busy.

With field units calling in contacts, stops, and requesting checks on multiple channels at the same time, it can get hectic. It's not uncommon for a warden or LEO to call on the phone, to request a check. All requests, unless emergency, are taken "in queue". It's not that we don't want to help, but one region may have seven or eight channels. When two or three field units have requests pending, and one of those units has two or three subjects, well it's going to take a few minutes to process the request.

Unfortunately, there's not much we can do about stacking requests. I know agencies where field units have MDT's in their cars will allow back-up field units to run requests in the field. That's not an option with our Department. It may not be one at your Department. We also are answering phones and traffic on the other channels, at least to tell other units to stand by.

If nothing else, after reading this, know that we (or at least I) aren't ignoring you on purpose. I may be working an in-progress event on another channel and I'll answer you as soon as possible. I may be calling for fire or ems. I may be in the middle of reading a response to a unit. I do have one request from you: unless it's an emergency, please: call and wait for me to acknowledge you before you tell me your traffic. It will save you from repeating yourself.

As always: keep safe out there.

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