Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Hey, that's MY corner!" Ways to help the Public Safety budget

Any of you remember the Nike Goalie commercials back from the last NHL lock-out? Nike, the athletic wear company took advantage of the no hockey season by featuring actors dressed up as NHL goalies (in full gear) standing outside panhandling. The company kept the commercial series going for a while, showing the actors competing for 'prime' corners, the main character chasing away other players all the while sounding off about star NHL players. He'd put a collection bowl on the ground, thanking those who donated to him, occasionally demonstrating his on-ice moves for stopping shots. Nike played clips of those star players, like Sergei Federov, from the prior season. In one clip, the goalie snuck up the Federov's car and stuck a banana in the tail pipe while Sergei (we never actually saw Federov's face) was pumping gas. We heard the goalie laughing as he tip-toed off.

What does the NHL lock-out have to do with budgets?

Nothing really, I just read today that all games through the end of the year were cancelled and hope someone from Nike might read this. Bring back fun  hockey commercial spots on TV.

Here's on to the topic.

Is your department's budget stretched to it's limit? Does your agency have money problems?

OF COURSE IT DOES. You work in Public Safety - Telecommunicators are at the bottom of the monetary ladder. It takes a mandate of POST (that's Peace Officer Standards and Training, or the State Legislature) before we get training. Money? Maybe in an election year, IF, one of our co-workers uses the EMD flip cards to save the Governor's sisters' godson from choking.

A couple of us were brainstorming the other day. What could we do to help improve our lot at work?

Communications Centers across the country are in similar positions. We're asked to do more work with less staff. We're working with aging equipment, or equipment that doesn't do what the reps told us it would. Maybe we're using new equipment and learning the system on-the-job, while vacations are at their peak. CAD programs chosen by administration are less than efficient than promised; perhaps only the bare-bones software was purchased, instead of the complete package with all the bells & whistles. The new hires aren't doing as well as hoped: or are okay, but just taking a little longer to complete the training. The narrow banding & digital conversions have the radio system sounding like the field personnel in broadcasting from the Monterey Trench, in a submarine, during an El Nino storm.

It's frustrating. We're passing around bottles of Tums like it was candy on Halloween. Instead of water bottles at our work stations, half of our co-workers now keep liquid Maalox.

Yeah, been there and still do that.

Regardless of which situation you fit in, I feel for you. As Red Green says, "We're all in this together". We have to stop the madness. The Geriatric Dispatchers Association have decreed that we have to take steps to fix this fiscal tsunami.

To save money, let's implement a few changes.

1) All members of the agency's jurisdiction can voluntarily join (for a nominal fee) the Dauntless Operaters Paltering on the Edge (DOPE), which entitles them to a slew of non-essential services which will include transfers to other non-emergency numbers; instructions on cooking turkeys for Thanksgiving (A recorded message); an answer to what time is it? ; and, one free emotional validation per subscriber in a twenty-four hour period (I'm so sorry you're feeling upset, yes, that is horrible that your brother called you an idiot)...imagine the posters plastered about town.

Wait, don't reject this. If only 30% of your population bought in to this, the money would more than pay for this service the first year...and word would get out. It would grow every year.

 2) Make a list of every regular duty performed and place a monetary value  on it. For example, answering a 911 call, a direct emergency call, non-emergency call, transferring calls, entering call in CAD, delivering copies of NCIC paperwork to law enforcement officer's mailboxes, etc. Each individual item would be assigned a dollar value. Think of this along the lines of shopping at Wal-Mart. How much is one apple verses a bag of generic french fries or a HP laptop? Delivering the paperwork could be the apple while the HP laptop is dispatching the in-progress calls, an EMD call for CPR is the same as buying a LCD wide screen TV (think major purchase), and the biggest ticket item is the field unit down (I need help!!! call) - equivalent to a mortgage.

You get the idea.

If the department wants us to do more with less, then there has to be some give & take somewhere. I say take away the in-house phone transfers. If person A calls me from their desk and then decides she wants to talk to Person B, then she can hang up and make the call herself (give a list of in-house phone numbers & department assignments - make sure EVERYONE has one). Let the staff come and get their own print-outs.

3) The days of hearing "I pay your salary" and not firing back are done. For every time a caller makes that statement we can give the caller two options: come on over to the station and we'll make you a dispatcher OR you get to donate 0.5% more in property taxes earmarked to our Communications Center, your choice.

We work four/ten shifts. We have three days off. I'm thinking we could each give up one eight hour hour shift to help one another. Call it a charitable donation. In the end, we'd all benefit. Your agency can figure out an appropriate time based upon the shifts you work.

4) Christmas has the Salvation Army bell ringers. I say let's capitalize on the system. Wearing our headsets, and setting up a 'please help' sign with colorful pictures of an empty console, we could take turns manning the corners of different places. There are toy phones that make phony ringing noises, toy cell phones, and even realistic training set-ups. Many of us are very good at finding gems at the local thrift stores: there's sure to be old rotary dial phones cheap.

So, there you go. My tongue-in-cheek humorous take on some off the wall solutions to money problems. Hey, it couldn't be any worse than the real ones that hasven't seemed to work!

Hang in there my friends and try to laugh once a day. Don't forget to check that expiration date on the Maalox. I keep mine refrigerated.

Stay safe out there!

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