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Disaster Management: Controlling Rumors On Social Media Is Crucial During A Disaster Or Terrorist Attack

A study on the use of social media in three major incidents revealed that Twitter is emerging as the dominant social reporting tool to report eye-witness accounts and share information on disasters... But when it is the online community who are creating and exchanging the news rather than official news channels, this can not only exaggerate the unfolding situation, but also unintentionally turn it into misinformation, diverting attention from the real problems.

April Highlights 9-1-1 Education & Public Safety Telecommunictor Service

April has rolled around once again, and that's the time we all think about National Public Safety Telecommunicator's Week and 9-1-1 Education Month. If you haven't seen them, I'd like to show you some great links that can help you get the positive story about 9-1-1 out to the public.

Tips for a Stress-Less Workplace

There are many habits and practices you can do on a regular basis to keep you very healthy and happy. Some of these tips are specific to the workplace, some are general lifestyle suggestions that I've found to be valuable in achieving an overall sense of stress-less well being.

How Public-Private Collaboration Can Improve Emergency Communications in Local Government

All local governments - and especially their first responders and emergency management personnel - face major challenges when dealing with "black swan" events such as ice storms in the South, terrorist bombs at marathons, random shootings in schools and cyber attacks just about anywhere. No city or state has the resources to adequately protect their citizens against all possible hazards in our modern, 21st century threat environment.

Future Proofing the Communications Environment: How to Maximize Your Investment

Modern public safety agencies need more than a crystal ball to plan for the ever-evolving technology environment surrounding public safety communications. Communications equipment is a long term, major investment and establishing a communications environment that is "future proof" while serving the user's needs today requires that agencies ask all the right questions before deciding which solution is best for them.

Addressing Address Data that Works for You

We rely on addressing in multiple, everyday situations - mailing, navigation, emergency response and others. Addresses are assigned to single and multi-family homes, apartment buildings, industrial and commercial structures, and government structures. In some areas, addresses are assigned to identify infrastructure facilities, such as communication towers, fire hydrants, utility poles, bridges, and boat ramps.

New Forms of Communication Technology for Law Enforcement in 2014

Law enforcement and military services have remained a big challenge even in the technology rich 21st century. Creating a safe environment for civilians and dissolving crime usually involves taking risks and maintaining effective communication methods. Nonetheless, meaningful progress has been made on that front. Here are some of the standout technologies for law enforcement in 2014.

The Pachyderm in the PSAP

An unusually poetic commentary of the state-of-the-art of dispatcher staffing and retention. In the spirit of a holiday jingle, PSAP Management columnist Barry Furey examines the issues in rhyming meter and creative wordplay to address a one of the major issues challenging 9-1-1 Centers this year - and likely next.

The Next Generation Communications Center

I believe that we are going to see more change in the Communications Center in the next five to ten years than we have seen in the last 25... And now we are moving to Next Generation 9-1-1. I prefer to call it Next Generation Communications Center - because I believe NG9-1-1 has a lot more to do with the entire function and operation of the communications center than just 9-1-1.

Hurricane Sandy - One Year Later: Why Satellite Technology Should be a Part of Emergency Planning

As evidenced during and after Superstorm Sandy, satellite networks played a major role in ensuring continuity of communications, keeping emergency responders, businesses and people connected when terrestrial services were disrupted or unavailable. First responders and public safety managers experienced first-hand the critical need to communicate during a crisis to effectively respond and manage field resources, including organizations assisting with recovery efforts. Government leaders in...

Perspective: Out-Of-Control Border Patrol?

How do democratic nations deal with terrorism, perceived and real? Actually, the same way a dictatorship does. Freedoms are suspended and civil rights diminished. Martial law can be imposed, free press suspended and false propaganda issued. There is money in war. History has proved that greed instigated more than one world conflict.

From The Chair: The Ever-Onward March of Technology

It is difficult to faze 9-1-1 dispatchers. But there is one phrase that strikes terror in them, "We're upgrading!" This installment of From the Chair asks the question, "Is introducing the latest and greatest technology really helping to do the job better?" To explore that question the article focuses on the CAD.

Where's Watson When We Really Need Him?

Obviously, back in the pioneering days of telephony, technology was a lot simpler than it is today. Complexity grows over time. Man had walked in space before we handled our first true 9-1-1 call, and Automatic Number Identification (ANI) and Automatic Location Identification (ALI) came along after that. One can argue that 9-1-1 never got any better since then.

Community Policing In The Age Of Homeland Security

Having recently heard about an example of law enforcement bullying in one of our Airports, our Perspective columnist John C. Fine was prompted to share his concerns and cautions in his latest observation, in which the keepers of homeland security make us feel actually less secure.

From The Chair: Socialized Media

So far it's been a quiet night. You handled a few disturbances, a handful of family disputes, and an alarm here and there. Then this pops up in your queue: "d 5-o crash on jensen ppl hurt tnk cUd B trapd." Wow! Your first text message since your center started receiving them. No problem, it's clear as day. Or is it? Your dispatching who, to where, for what? This installment of From the Chair looks at a future where 9-1-1 inevitably collides with "Socialized Media."

Supervision: 15 Evaluation Pain Killers

Bet most of you never had an evaluation you liked. Well, that's not true, I'm sure if it praised you as you deserved you liked it. Let's say you never had an evaluation you could honestly say was deeply meaningful, greatly insightful, and guided you towards greater mastery in your work. Can an evaluation really do all that?

From the Chair: "Living La Vida Macro"

Airplanes have black boxes. Sports, the instant replay. And dispatchers have the call logger. Each of these is invaluable when analyzing an incident. However, they don't tell the whole story. This is especially true of loggers in the dispatch center. This installment of "From the Chair" discusses the pitfalls of using a single-channel recording when investigating the handling of a call.

I Am Not An Animal!: When Old Tricks Training Isn't Enough

If you have a training program that evaluates only performance and skills you may be using a learning theory called behaviorism. Behaviorism is a theory of animal and human learning that only focuses on observable behaviors and discounts mental activities. It is true that learning is supposed to result in a change of behavior but not only behavior. So, what does this have to do console training? Do you ever wonder why a trainee can perform perfectly for you but when they get out there on...

No Mulligans Here: 9-1-1, the Media, and Public Judgment

9-1-1 calls provide a significant amount of provocative audio in the world of twenty-four hour news. Many times these calls are handled properly; sometimes they are not. Occasionally, the call itself becomes almost as compelling as the original story. Perhaps the most recent example of this involves Amanda Berry; the kidnap victim recently recovered in Cleveland. While the aftermath of the incident may prove to be a boon to the Good Samaritan and McDonalds, it has been less kind to the...

From the Chair: "Press or Push?"

You are right in the middle of a multiagency mass casualty event when the phone rings. Is it a commander in the field with important information? Is it one of the mutual aid agencies you are coordinating? No. It is a reporter from a local newspaper with a thousand and one questions; just what you needed! This installment of From the Chair takes a look at the relationship between the dispatcher and the media. It discusses how an effective Public Information Officer is a buffer between...

From the Chair: April Foolishness

It's amazing how time flies! April 2013 marks the one-year anniversary of "From the Chair" - a featured column in 9-1-1Magazine written for the frontline 9-1-1 telecommunicator. Its author - Paul Bagley - took us on a wild ride through the ever-changing landscape of public safety emergency communications. His breezy style was frequently irreverent, often whimsical, and sometimes touching. To conclude its first year, and to usher in the next, the latest installment takes a fun look at the...

She Fell - A Lesson from a Flock of Geese

Here in the Northwest we often are privileged to hear the familiar honking of Canadian geese as they fly low in their well-known "V" formation to some unknown destination. We know that flying in this formation allows the flock to fly further together than they could alone - thus they are often used to represent how much more efficient and effective we are when we cooperate. Teamwork in a 9-1-1 Center shares that kind of dynamic, and its absence can be as keenly felt...

What Use Our Work?

As April rolls around again, we spend time educating the public about 9-1-1 and honoring our brightest and best employees. But, it seems to me that one thing we rarely do is sit back and take a long hard look at what it is that we really do, because absent of the speeches, proclamations, and news clips lies this measure. And what we really do is pretty darn good.

Quality Assurance? Are They Learning or Burning?

Although needed and necessary, Quality Assurance (QA) programs can create chaos in your Comm Center if not presented and managed in a way that acknowledges some realities... But you cannot force people to put their defenses down when they are feeling unsafe. You can work to help them feel safe. Here are five thoughts on a positive pro-active approach to QA programs at 9-1-1.

Is There a Place for Social Media in Public Safety?

The Internet is public. Even when comments or posts are sent directly to a specific distribution group or only shared with “friends” there is nothing stopping these individuals from forwarding, re-posting, or sharing with others. There is nothing more embarrassing than complaining about a co-worker (or your boss) only to have them eventually receive and read your comments.

From The Chair: "Scanner Land!"

You just sat down to begin your shift. The cluster of screens before you glow brightly, and the radio test revealed no problems. Before long, you will handle the fire on Broadway, the domestic violence on State Street, and the fender bender at the mall. And of course you will wonder if the hundreds, if not thousands, of people looking over your shoulder will approve of the way you're doing your job. The latest installment of "From the Chair" takes an irreverent look at the love-hate...

From the Chair: Requiem for a Dispatcher

When you think of hazardous jobs what comes to mind: firefighters, high-rise steel workers, bomb disposal technicians, 9-1-1 dispatchers? Dispatchers? What is the hazard of sitting in a secure room behind a cluster of computer monitors, answering phone calls, and talking on a radio? Plenty! In this edition of "From the Chair," Paul Bagley presents a real-life cautionary tale to remind us just how dangerous dispatching can be. The take-away lesson may just save your life.

Recording Solutions: The Collaboration of Small Agencies Can Yield Big Results

Many forward-thinking municipalities have started working together, pooling their budgets to implement the infrastructure or technology that they could not otherwise afford. Through collaboration, agencies in Minnesota - as well as Texas, California and Colorado - have profited by leveraging one system for multiple agencies through cost-sharing technology acquisitions.

From The Chair: 2B or Not 2B - That Is a Question?

When the great bard Shakespeare had Lord Polonius remark, "Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't," little did he know that he was describing the world of the modern PSAP. Now nearly 420 years later, From the Chair takes a whimsical and somewhat satirical look at the "madness" of how the public does and will communicate with the 9-1-1 center.

From the Chair: Preparing for the Unthinkable

In the latest installment of From the Chair, Paul pays tribute to the dispatchers working in the Newtown (CT) Emergency Communications Center on the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. He goes on to discuss how they were able to control the chaos of the active shooter incident, and still maintain the order and normal function of their center. He concludes with a warning that what the Newtown dispatchers did would have been impossible without careful preparation and planning...

Text to 9-1-1: Things to Consider

This new technology is only the latest in what has been an almost constant drumbeat since 9-1-1 was first developed almost thirty years ago. The next few years will see callers having the ability to send photos and video, as well as text messages, into the 9-1-1 Center. This presents our Centers with some opportunities, as well as a few challenges.

What If Columbine Were Mine?

Seven years ago this month, on April 20, 1999 the word Columbine entered our collective vocabulary as the singular definition of school violence. Although not the first, and regrettably, not the last such incident, it served to bring attention to the fact that tragedies of unimaginable magnitudes can - and do - happen almost anywhere.

Innocent Blood: Shots Fired in Newtown

Active shooters have now become such a part of public safety's life that the names of the communities in which they occur run together in a liturgy reminiscent of the battles of our Civil War... Now, Columbine is not even alone in Colorado in this distinction. And if misery truly does love company, they are comfortably surrounded by the Virginia Techs, and Clackamases, and Newtowns of our country...

From the Chair: The Holidays Approach - Big Whoop!

In the latest installment of From the Chair, Paul turns his attention to the holiday season. With an irreverent wink, some humor, and a dash of sarcasm, Paul looks at the relationship between holidays and the 9-1-1 telecommunicator. The article concludes with a poignant message to those who find themselves in the chair on those special days.

From the Chair: 9-1-1 Standards - Leveling the Playing Field

The ultimate evolution of the 9-1-1 system is the elimination of jurisdiction based PSAPs. In their place would be a virtual nationwide network of PSAPs. It would no longer matter which 9-1-1 center receives a call, or by what method. Every PSAP regardless of its physical location would have the ability to dispatch local resources anywhere in the country. Such a system will require significant advances in present technology. Under the umbrella of the NG9-1-1 initiative, there are...

Anger Management in the PSAP

Anger affects our bodies, our minds and our behavior. In can be like a toxin that can either help us or hurt us. Think of it like chemotherapy. If you have something bad happening to you and you have to deal with it, sometimes you need a stronger does of "something" to fight it. In the case of anger, you are reacting to something that has gotten out of control, or your old methods of dealing are no longer working so anger came to the rescue...

Protocols and Policies: The Necessity of Dispatcher Discretion

In early October, David Givot, a practicing attorney and former paramedic published an op-ed piece entitled "Humans vs. Toys: What Happened to Dispatch Discretion?" While investigation related to the story that prompted this article continues, Mr. Givot's missive probably stirred up more discussion than did the catalyst for the conversation... The article - and subsequent online conversations - can lead us down some interesting paths.

Nixing the Negativity in the PSAP

"Why does the dispatcher need help getting through this officer down incident, he wasn't even on the scene?" These were the words a high ranking official asked me, the 9-1-1 Director in charge of a center where an officer was shot, when my dispatcher was having extreme anxiety over the incident. I wish I knew then what I know now...

Emergency Communicators: Stay One Step Ahead in Preparedness

One of the most important things for emergency telecommunicators to do is to truly understand their jurisdiction and what critical infrastructure, symbolic targets, and other unique features exist and how the loss or disruption of those facilities or events will impact emergency responders and the community. Understanding community threats prior to an emergency is critical to not just the success of the response, but also the life safety of the occupants and emergency responders.

From the Chair: Chaos and Staffing

The character David Brent, from the BBC series "The Office," is known for his saying, "If you can keep your head when all around you have lost theirs, then you probably haven't understood the seriousness of the situation." When referring to a PSAP we can rewrite that to say, "If you can keep your head when all around you have lost theirs, then you are probably a telecommunicator." In this installment of From the Chair, Paul uses the paraphrase of Brent's humor to write about how the outbreak...

From the Chair: Gripes, the Dichotomy of Dispatch, and the Sacred File

In the latest installment of "From the Chair," Paul takes a detour to discuss - perhaps rant might be a better word - his personal experiences in the dispatch center that were a constant source of aggravation. And the culprits? His own colleagues. The article is written humorously, but makes some important observations about the nature of the people who occupy the chair. You will certainly recognize the characters he describes, as they may be sitting right next to you; perhaps even the...

From the Chair: Is 9-1-1 Really a System?

Do you know what 9-1-1 is? Do you know how it works? Do you know what it's for? In this article, Paul raises and discusses several thought-provoking questions about the 9-1-1 system's past, present, and future.

Managing the Cone of Uncertainty

...I became aware of what the job description should be for everyone in public safety communications: "We manage the cone of uncertainty!" Because, folks, that's what we do. Every call taker and telecommunicator never knows what the next call will be. More than likely it will be something relatively minor. And then again, it can be the lead story on the six o,clock news or CNN. Either way, they must be ready.

From the Chair: Our Hang Ups

In this installment, "Our Hang Ups," Paul discusses the nemesis of all dispatchers - the hang up and dropped call. He reminiscences a bit about the good old days when dispatching was little more than answering the phone and sending someone out. He then turns his attention to the brave new world where the onrush of new technologies is profoundly altering the operation of the PSAP, and creating ever-increasing challenges for the modern telecommunicator. To paraphrase the late American hero...

From The Chair: Accepting the Inevitable: Schedules, Expectations & Things

"Accepting the Inevitable" addresses the reality of how shift work and the 24/7 world of the dispatch center effects the emotional, physical, and performance of the telecommunicator. It peels away the glossy surface of dispatching to expose the dirty details that every 9-1-1 professional has to confront from their first day on the job until the day they retire.

My Server Crashed! Someone Call 9-1-1!

Technologies, applications, and the systems they run on are becoming more complex and more highly integrated, with more sophisticated features than ever before. It's putting a strain on PSAP's ability to keep up and manage these systems. When evaluating new Computer Aided Dispatch systems and related applications, the natural tendency is to focus on the software, the user experience it affords call takers and dispatchers, and how efficient and productive it enables them to be.

9-1-1 For Sale: The Politics of the Public/Private Partnership

Overall, we've learned to deal, or at least make do with the technology, and the private firms seemed to at least offer some benefit to a unique niche in our population that we were under serving. Recently, however, there seems to be a new trend toward selling services with a broader appeal. But as appealing as they may seem to the public to whom they are marketed, some are raising questions within the 9-1-1 community...

From the Chair: 9-1-1 Mobility

There is a tidal wave of change coming for the emergency telecommunications industry that is known simply as NG9-1-1. It's all about mobility now... The gurus in the high-tech industries have been busying themselves trying to solve some of the known problems, while simultaneously finding new and creative ways by which citizens can access emergency services...

Perspective: Terrorism And Terrorists

Controlling a population through terror dates from the first human societies. Fear of terrorists has caused our free society, through elected officials, to circumvent civil rights. Lawsuits have been instituted that reveal electronic espionage on innocent U.S. citizens by government intelligence services. Torture of prisoners interned in offshore compounds, shrouded in secrecy, has been revealed by investigations and Congressional probes. The good have become bad and the bad have won a major...

Perspective: Homeland Corruption

Michael McCaul, the U.S. Representative from Texas and Chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management, revealed that that since 2004 130 U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have been arrested on charges that have included drug smuggling, money laundering and smuggling.

From The Chair: The Myth of CAD

In the good old days, back when I began my flirtation with this insane career now known as emergency telecommunications, the idea of computer-aided dispatching was no more on the radar than were computers themselves. Computers were giant rooms full of electronic gear that nerdy high-techie-types tinkered with at Berkeley and MIT, not something that sat upon virtually every desk in a police or fire station, or resided inside police vehicles or fire trucks...

From the Chair: Chain-of-Command - It's All A Pyramid Scheme

Many people claim that emergency services - dispatch included - are "paramilitary" organizations. I'm not completely certain that term applies since the prefix "para" is a shortened form of the word parachute in the military, and anyone whose job title begins with that prefix literally jumps voluntarily out of airplanes.

Why some Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) can be suspect themselves

Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) has drawn the attention of law enforcement across the nation because of its ability to capture, categorize and catalog important data for analysis of specific patterns of criminal activity as it occurs and during its planning stages. Determining when non-suspect activity becomes suspect activity can be difficult to ascertain, however. For example, tourists in big cities take photos of infrastructure - buildings, roads, tunnels and bridges. They're not...

It's NOT Your Mother's 9-1-1

9-1-1 has come a long way baby. 20 years ago there was no such thing as a Training Manager, simulators, certification, or dispatch academy. What is missing? What is needed? A Police Chief told me about his 'core group' (solid for 10-20 years) and - the revolving door group (hired in the last 3 years). What's up?... If the 10-20 employees thrived, we can assume - back then - that we hired the right people, had great training, negativity was rare, shiftwork was easier, we didn't fear...

From the Chair: Dispatching Disease

Any high-stress sedentary job has the tendency to put on the pounds if the individual engaged in it isn't careful. Because of the many strenuous demands, dispatching can erode the physical well-being of a person quicker than hard liquor and illicit drugs combined. We all know that and, to a degree, we accept it. The question is, what do we do about it?

From The Chair: Semantics Makes All the Difference

Often it seems as though how we say something conveys more information than what we actually say; and, of course, vice versa. Nowhere is this truer than in the profession of emergency telecommunications. In addition to everything else that dispatchers must do in their daily routine, today they must be diplomats, and true diplomacy requires a new paradigm regarding language skills.

Personal Alerts: What Should Mobile Subscribers Expect Now that CMAS Implementation is Moving Forward?

CMAS is a new public safety system that allows people who own an enabled mobile device to receive geographically targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area. This alerting follows you wherever you go and does not require previous knowledge of zip codes or advance registration.

From the Chair: Dispatching is Simple - It's Just Not Easy!

Sometimes it helps to think of dispatching as though you're playing a board game. In a game you need to know how each piece moves in order to be any good at it.

From The Chair: A Column for the Dispatcher

I've never met an "average dispatcher" in my life. Just as every human being is unique, so is every emergency telecommunicator. True, we may all talk in a similar fashion and act alike in given circumstances. When the rubber meets the road, we all handle emergency calls in pretty much the same manner. Where we differ is in how we individually perceive the world in general and how we deal with the stress that is part and parcel of the job.

National Public Safety Telecommunicators' Week Turns Twenty-One!

Here we are in 2012, celebrating what is the official twenty-first birthday of National Public Safety Telecommunicators' Week. Although it was conceived in California a decade before and has been known by a number of aliases, about the closest thing we have to a birth certificate is a 1991 Congressional Proclamation - so we'll go with that. As can be imagined, after ten years of labor, this baby was welcomed with open arms by most.

The Calls Will Go On: NPSTW & The Titanic Anniversary

Did you know that there is a link between the NPSTW and one of the greatest disasters of the twentieth century? This year commemorates the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912. How can answering a 9-1-1 line or monitoring a radio channel be related to an event over one hundred years ago?

Password Please: The Place of Social Media in Hiring Decisions

Recently the Internet has been all a-twitter about numerous reports of employers requesting social media passwords from prospective and current employees... While on the surface this practice seems a shocking violation of personal space and freedoms, there are others who would argue that valuable information concerning hiring decisions can be gained in this manner... Let's take a closer look at the issue; especially as it applies to public safety communications.

9-1-1 Groundhog Day?

In the movie Groundhog Day, the main character wakes up every morning in the exact same place, at the exact same time, always having to repeat the same day - Groundhog Day. No matter what he experiences, he still wakes up having to repeat the day. Although he tries strategies to escape, nothing works; he still wakes up the next day to the same mess. I hear from many 9-1-1 leaders that their work to bring about 'positive lasting change' feels like Groundhog Day. So how can leaders...

7 Traits Of A Chaotic Workplace - And 7 Great Resources For Overcoming Them

9-1-1 Communications Center teams work like well-oiled precision tools when a critical call comes in or the phones and radios are swamped on a full moon Friday night. But we often hear that teamwork comes to an abrupt halt when it comes to getting along or to be a team off the phones and radio. Here are 7 Deadly Habits and 7 Useful Tips for more teamwork off the phones and radios and 7+ recommended eBooks for your professional library, independent learning, or In Service Training.

Quality Is Job 9-1-1

The state of quality control within our industry truly requires a case-by-case study. Some states have standards; others do not. Some agencies train; others do not. You get the point. Realistically then, quality must begin at home. But what do we mean by quality? What do we measure and how often do we measure it? And, more importantly, what do we do with the results?

Trust... But Verify...

Using that old Ronald Reagan quote has a lot to say about address verification. Every once in a while, we see another bad outcome of a dispatcher or calltaker who sent responders to an incorrect address, an incorrect jurisdiction, or a location that did not exist. Why does this happen?

During Budget Cuts How Technology Can Save Lives with Less Money

Today, state and local governments must provide citizen services with tighter budget constraints than ever before. These challenges force governments to pick and choose between programs and services often putting citizens and government employees in jeopardy. Innovative, collaborative, virtualization technology is a key solution to address this ever-growing problem.

Leadership and Conflict Resolution in the PSAP

Joy to the world, peace on earth etc etc. Yet what about the ongoing Criticizing, Condemning, Complaining? Natural human behavior - to a point. But when the 3 Cs become epidemic in your Comm Center it's time to take some leadership action.

The Ghosts of Christmases Past

There will always be a select number of calls whose memory will follow each and every one of us throughout our careers and become indelibly imprinted as part of the holiday season... Despite the severity of these events and others like them, the names of those involved have dimmed over the years. While the streets and neighborhoods involved are often associated with these recollections, the most common denominator is the deep seated sorrow that "something like this could happen near the...

Communications Technology Key to Disaster Preparation

Recently, Motorola Solutions had an opportunity to speak with two of our customers who were on the front lines of very different natural disasters that grabbed headlines this year. We wanted to hear their stories first-hand to ensure that we are meeting the current demands of first responders throughout the country, as well as anticipating their needs in coming years.

Deja Vu All Over Again: Public Safety & Civil Disobedience 2011 Style

Are we headed for a repeat of the tumultuous sixties? I'm not sure, but certainly some of the divining signs are there. And if that is the case we are going to need to resharpen our skills in handling the types of events that are associated with societal change.

Interceptor: An Affectionate Look Back at the Crown Vic

They were big. They were boxy. They drank fuel at a fantastic rate. They were cool. They were often the subject of coffee breaks and station get-togethers by police departments all over the country. If you wanted to start an instant debate among cops, begin a discussion of which police cars were faster - the Dodge, the Chevy, or the Ford Crown Victoria. Now it's time to say goodbye to the Crown Vic, the car most often associated with the words police car.

Disaster Management: A Death in the Family

As a communications center manager, I can only imagine what my counterparts who were directly responsible for dispatching the initial responses had to cope with. What was the mindset in New York City where radio calls to company after company on the scene at the World Trade Center went unanswered? How did the telecommunicators in Arlington, Virginia respond when their focus turned from the CNN reports from Manhattan to the real world scenario unfolding at the Pentagon, right outside their...

Life After 9/11

While the general public beheld the unfolding events at the Pentagon and World Trade Center as tragic, those of us in public safety saw an even more disturbing picture. Most, if not all, of us immediately recognized the magnitude of these losses from our particularly parochial viewpoint... So, what have we learned from all of this? How are we as a nation and as a profession different now? How do we view life after 9/11?

Training Tactics: Preparing for the Worst

After three days without my luggage and only my laptop in a carry-on, it began to become clear that I needed to rethink packing extra items in my carry-on. I needed to be prepared in the event that, during the course of my travels, I became grounded again. How prepared are we as 9-1-1 professionals to handle events that we've never been trained or prepared to handle? What do we need in our professional "carry-on?" Here are some suggested items to pack...

9/11 A Decade Removed

I was asked by 9-1-1 Magazine Editor Randall Larson to express a few thoughts on the events of 9/11, and how we've changed, ten years later. I'd given the request quite a bit of thought; attempting to adequately describe where we stand today, a decade after the Twin Towers fell, appeared at first to be a fool's errand... like Shrek's life, 9/11 is really complicated, having dozens of 'layers,' depending on where you stood that day.

9/11/11: Ten Years Gone

For everyone of us who watched the towers fall and understood the loss not in terms of concrete and steel, but in the content of lockers to be carefully gathered and delivered to loved ones, and of roll calls to which there would never be an answer there will always be the question "have we done enough?"

Where Are The 9-1-1 College Programs?

Are there great ideas to increase the pool of qualified or experienced candidates for 9-1-1 Jobs? YES! Have you thought about working with your local college?

Vendor's Corner: Technology and Emergency 9-1-1 Operations

As the last ten years have seen huge advancements in the communication technologies we use in our everyday connected lifestyles with smart phones, tablet PCs, netbooks, and the like, there has also been a paradigm shift in how we gather, consume and disseminate information. No longer must we rely on the media for telling us what is happening around the world, but we now can plug directly into news channels via social media outlets, situational awareness alerting services, blogs, etc. to...

9-1-1 Leadership Values

How important is a leader? What is the leader's role with negativity? What are the tools you can use to overcome this problem should it affect your Comm Center? What are the group dynamics of people who have no (or poor) leadership?

The Hidden Hazards of Chemical Suicide

Police and firefighters in Aurora, Colorado responded to an apartment building after a report was made of the smell of rotten eggs in the area. The building was evacuated, and responders entered an apartment whose bathroom had been taped shut with duct tape. Signs warned of hazardous materials inside. A young woman's body was soon removed from the residence. Welcome to the new and terrifying world of chemical suicide. As a 9-1-1 dispatcher, it's important for you to know that this threat...

Training for Inconsistency

If you always strive to be consistent, you may be passing up opportunities to increase your trainees and your own success. Ironically, consistent achievement is not produced by consistent behaviors. In some situations, being consistent may be the worst advice you can follow. Consistency may have been more useful in the past when agencies had more simple work. With rapid changes and increased diversity, certain kinds of inconsistency have become virtues, not vices.

Can You Teach Multi-Tasking?

Once Upon A Time I believed that as a trainer I could not teach someone multi-tasking. I believed that you were either born with this skill or you weren't. I believed this because I had trainees who couldn't talk and type at the same time, which was the least of what they would need to learn in the time we had to work with them.

Access 9-1-1: Anytime, Anywhere, Any Device

Since this month's issue historically appears in conjunction with the National Emergency Number Association's annual conference, I thought that it might be appropriate to discuss the new trademarked tagline that has become associated with NENA. On the surface, it's a pretty catchy tune; "Emergency Help - Anywhere, Anytime, Any Device." And granted, it does pretty much sum up the state of our business, and where we are most likely headed. But beyond the printed words, what does it really...

The Blame Game

...in a profession that has historically been viewed as a gathering of redheaded stepchildren, taking potshots at the PSAP is nothing new. What is new, however, is the scope of these collective allegations and insinuations. While I'll paraphrase for the sake of brevity, the intent is clear: whatever it is, it's the dispatcher's fault. This thinking dovetails nicely with my favorite analogy: 9-1-1 is like a submarine. Nobody sees us or hears us until something blows up. Then they blame us for...

Ick! I Hate Evaluations

How annoying can the evaluation process be? Think back to years of getting and giving evaluations. Are your memories fuzzy recollections of frustration, confusion, apathy, joy or resentment? Or do you recall them as an effective method of valued communications between you and an expert on how well you are keeping the promise of your work and adding to the overall agency goals of excellence?

From 9/11 to 9-1-1: What the Death of Bin Laden Means to Us

Late on the evening of Sunday, May 1, President Barack Obama announced to the world that Osama Bin Laden was dead; ending a decade long search for what many believed to be the poster child for terrorism... So now that the dust from the chopper blades has cleared the compound, and we have a clear view, just what does all of this mean to public safety? Unfortunately, a clear view doesn't mean a clear answer.

What is complacency anyway?

In the 9-1-1-world complacency is a bad, bad word. Self-satisfied, on the other hand, is the actual dictionary definition and not a bad, bad thing - right? However, the dictionary goes further to say complacency is satisfaction to the degree that the complacent person becomes unaware of "potential dangers." The Call Taker may dull their sense of intuition. The Radio Dispatcher may be less inclined to do a status check. A Supervisor may procrastinate on a complaint. A Trainer may give...

Hey Everybody - It's Our Week!

Believe it or not, it's that time again; National Public Safety Telecommunicators' Week. Created by an act of Congress during the Clinton administration, it sets aside the second full week of April every year as a time to honor and acknowledge our brothers and sisters who work tirelessly during all fifty-two weeks of every year. As best as I can determine, the good folks in Contra Costa, California (or specifically one good folk at the Sheriff's Office named Patricia Anderson) came up with...

E911: Raising Awareness for a Critical Component of Emergency Communications

Over the years, I've met with many safety officers and other managers who think a lot about emergency preparedness at our schools, corporations and government institutions. ... most of these organizations are not using all the tools available to provide the highest level of safety in the event of an emergency. While their intent is right, many safety officers are simply not aware of technology solutions that exist today for multi-line telephone systems that can ensure the right help gets to...

Rising Sun: Dimming Hope - What the 9-1-1 Community Can Learn from the Tragedy in Japan

Sitting half a world away and watching the spectacle unfold, those of us in the Western Hemisphere are still afforded a ringside seat as the tragedy in Japan continues to develop. Every day brings with it new information, and seemingly a new crisis. As with any disaster, we in emergency services have a unique view of these events. Who didn't watch the Twin Towers fall and immediately have a sense of the tremendous public safety losses? We didn't need to be informed; the first picture told us...

The House is Falling: Suffering the Consequences of Neglect

There is not just ONE problem that is easy to solve in the 9-1-1 industry. There are many areas in need of repair, here are some thoughts: It is NO mystery that the pay is at times inadequate. Inadequate to attract good candidates, inadequate to keep good employees, inadequate to enable workers to feel valued or heard. They (whoever they are) claim pay isn't what matters, just like other human services jobs such as counseling, caring for the mentally ill. True maybe - the pay IN ITSELF...

Vendor's Corner: NENA i3: Something Less Than the Holy Grail of NG9-1-1

The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) has put considerable effort into creating a theoretical framework for an NG9-1-1 system they call i3. NENA's i3 document outlines their idea of a completed, fully integrated IP-based network of networks shared by all emergency agencies. This work has been monumental and is viewed by many industry stakeholders as the comprehensive definition of next-generation 9-1-1. The document offers many good ideas; however, we need to be clear about what i3...

Automatically Search Audio Recordings for Key Spoken Words

The Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) initiative seeks to significantly expand the capabilities of today's emergency 9-1-1 centers in order to optimize call-taker performance and enhance the center's overall incident response and resolution efforts. Primarily focused on a center's ability to handle text, data, images and video, there is another significant component to also consider - the use of audio-based intelligence in the mission-critical emergency services environment.

The Online Manager: Challenges of the Digital Age

Having written the Communication Manager's column for 9-1-1 Magazine for the past 15 years, I now look forward to making the transition to the web from print. While I have already had a few columns posted here, these were actually leftovers that had been waiting publication. So, from this month forward I'll be able to take advantage of the immediacy of the web and post content that is truly fresh.

Organized Crime

Organized crime is defined by modern law to mean the association of people in pursuit of criminal activity. The Chief Assistant District Attorney in New York County and head of the Rackets Bureau under legendary DA Frank S. Hogan, Alfred J. Scotti, considered organized crime a purely American brand of criminal activity. Of course he was of Italian ancestry and like many Italo-Americans resented labels Washington bureaucrats put on racketeering.

Evaluations: Giving and Getting - A Waste of Time?

Without good evaluation systems your agency has no idea what is happening compared to what is supposed to happen with individuals, shifts and the entire agency. Good evaluation processes and forms provide responsible supervision and direction. Evaluations provide documentation of the agency's accountability to manage the center responsibly.

Pants on the Ground::The Joys of Managing an Adult Dress Code

Every season of American Idol comes with its own set of surprises, and this year is no exception. "General" Larry Platt of Atlanta added the catchphrase "pants on the ground" to the American lexicon with his homemade ditty to drooping drawers. While his somewhat tongue-in-cheek composition focused on a particular dress style of the young, communications center managers can experience similar displays every day. If you are lucky enough to supervise a uniformed facility, then the remainder of...

New York City Holiday Security - Are We Safe In Crowds?

It took the New York City Fire Department Ambulance three traffic lights to get across Times Square from a major cross street. The surrounding area was packed with police officers. Some on foot in pairs, some standing outside patrol cars, some on horseback. None moved into the street to direct traffic against the light to make the ambulance's passage easier. The conclusion: the police officers didn't leave their posts. That can be a good thing but does standing around or sitting a horse...

Brother Can You Spare A Dime?

Current trends and challenges in 9-1-1 Center funding

Data Integration is a Necessary Building Block for Sound Analytical, Threat Assessment Capabilities

In the aftermath of 9/11, many law enforcement agencies sought to establish new data repositories to capture information, such as Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR, also known as Tips & Leads), Organized Crime Intelligence, Counter-terrorism Intelligence, and even Web-based and electronic document open-source data. Quite a few agencies, perhaps a result of the growth of Fusion Centers, are now interested in setting up information management systems that can mine existing data repositories...

Speech Analytics Now Primed For 'Law' And 'Order'

The use of automated speech recognition technology in business is nothing new. We see it all the time in the customer service industry - with voice-directed call routing, voice verification, identification of unhappy customers and so on. Albeit an advancement with tremendous value, we have not yet seen it used in the emergency services industry. You may be asking why. Perhaps it is due to the complex implementation processes often seen when trying to use this technology.

From The Chair: The Chair Itself

Chairs that can do the job properly are not cheap, and they're certainly aren't found on sale at the local discount office supply store. Good dispatch chairs are rated for twenty-four hour use, and they carry a maximum load assurance right on them; usually 500 pounds or greater. The office supply chair that carries a weight rating above 250 pounds is rare, and "task" chairs are the worst of these.

Reorienting the Dispatcher's Perspective

The Grapevine Police Department is like one big family. We have our good days and bad days. There are people we like and those we would prefer not to hang out with. There is sibling rivalry and an overwhelming ability to step up to the plate and help out in times of struggle and stress.

The "Dumbing" of Dispatchers

One of the more common complaints heard around the PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) concerns the "dumbing of dispatchers. This gripe typically comes from members with a little bit of time under their belts, and the propensity to wax poetic about the good old days.

I Swear!

In 1972, Comedian George Carlin had a popular routine based upon seven words that you can't say on television. Although cable TV has relaxed the former network rules, several of these words are still not politely uttered in the PSAP even 35 years after the fact. And when they are spoken nowadays, it may not be a laughing matter.

Microwave Management

Let me begin this month's column by apologizing to those of you who began reading this under the false assumption that it was a primer on managing extremely high-frequency radios. It is not.

The Emergency Doctrine: Doing the Right Thing

The Emergency Doctrine was created by human lawmakers who understood that if we are held to our normal standard of care during times when meeting such a standard is impossible, we may not act at all out of fear that we will do the wrong thing.

A Matter of Perception

Public Perception and the 9-1-1 Dispatcher

How Long Should Training Take?

There is a question I hear again and again and often see posted to the various 9-1-1-related newsgroups. Let's examine this question: how long should it take to train a public safety dispatcher?

 
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