Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Blender

“The Blender” is the working title of the book/screenplay in my head* about emergency communications.

The title refers to the atmosphere in the communications center and I find the metaphor apt on several levels.

First a little introduction:

The municipality in which I live is the size of the state of Delaware but has only about 250,000 people living in it.

Every 911 call from my community goes through our dispatch center first. My agency dispatches only police. Medical calls and fire calls go to a separate dispatch center. Fish and Wildlife, Animal Control, and the State Troopers all have separate dispatch centers.

There are two separate job functions dispatchers perform: calltaking and dispatching. Any given day (a 12 hour shift) you will be on a radio for between 4 and 6 hours and on the phones the rest of the day. Everyone's mileage varies but we try to make sure everyone gets a bit of some kind of radio every day (because frankly being a calltaker all day is frustrating).

A rough sketch of how it works is this:

If you call 911 or the police business line, you will reach a calltaker. 911 calls have priority and every other call goes in a queue. 911 calls can go into a separate queue if there are more calls than calltakers.

The calltaker will determine where you are and what you need (in that order). If the call requires an officer response, the calltaker will quickly and accurately load a call for service into the computer.

Our agency has two separate "main channels" and our service area is split geographically between those two radios. Where the problem is located determines which dispatcher gets the call for service.

The dispatcher will look at all of the pending calls for service and determine their order of priority (the computer assigns priorities based upon the general call type but the dispatcher will weigh exigent circumstances when prioritizing calls).

The dispatcher keeps track of the locations of all officers on duty and assigns available officers to pending calls.

Seems pretty easy, right?

Not so much.

The way my book/screenplay is set up (again, at least in my head) is to follow a dispatcher from the recruit phase to the senior dispatcher phase.

The question is: does anyone care? Would you be interested in reading about the process of being subjected to the blender every day (with some wacky stories thrown in for spice)?

Do tell.

*by "screenplay in my head" I mean and on this blog as well. Creative commons license and all that. Don't get all cheeky about stealing my stuff.


John Cowart said...

The sort of thing you envision worked well a few years ago with Joseph Waumbaugh's Blue Knights in relationship to cops on the street; it sounds as though you have an inside track to making this work from the dispatcher's viewpoint.
Great idea. Go with it.

jen said...

i think it's an incredibly fascinating premise. also, with your engaging and frequently hilarious writing style, i don't see how it could fail.

so, yeah. go for it.

Jas said...

You write well, and you have a talent for the eloquence of soliloquie.

Helping those around you, and even just blog pals to understand the voices behind their phone support, and sometimes the only voice of order in a time of chaos, could take a good step towards some favorable exposure.

I know you are no stranger to unfavorable exposure.

If nothing else, it'd be wonderfully educational for those who know you personally to better understand the trials and tribulations that affect your life, and in turn often help to enrich our own.

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Anonymous said...

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