Friday, November 27, 2009

It's In The Numbers

Wednesday, October 28, 2009:

It was explained that, of 500 people who took the 9-1-1 exam, 50 were selected for interviews. Of the 50 selected, 24 were sent on to complete the physical, fingerprinting, psychological exam, and criminal background check. Of the 24 they hoped to have 12 new recruits.

On Monday morning, October 26, 2009, 7 of us showed up for work.

As a Dispatcher, the laid-out training schedule looked intense and intimidating. Five weeks of classroom training, one month taking 9-1-1 calls on the floor, three more weeks of classroom training as a dispatcher, and then three months on the floor with a dispatch trainer before I could even be considered for certification.

Two giant three ring binders and a text book sat in my place in the classroom.  Of the seven, I was the only male.

Three of us were assigned to be Fire / EMS (ambulance) dispatchers, two were to become police dispatchers, and two were set to be TCC (telecommunicators--or the one's who take the initial 9-1-1 calls).

Classes were held in an exact duplicate room to that of the 9-1-1 operations floor. Only difference was, this training room was not live. In the event of an emergency (loss of power to the main operations floor, fire, or some kind of unexpected accident, the training ops room -- by the flick of a switch -- could be made live).  Aside from the two operations centers in the one building, there were two other off-site locations should the main building ever become incapacitated completely.

The two operation centers were separated by a beautiful, well lit, atrium. A tree grew in the center. Branches reached up toward the massive skylight. Although there is no cafeteria, there is a full functioning kitchen with an industrial stove and microwaves, sink, dishwasher, stocked cupboards and a refrigerator.

Both the men and women locker rooms housed shower stalls and snaked through to a weight/workout room.

The main operations floor, sectioned off by bulletproof and fire resistant glass, revealed an array of work stations. TCC operators occupied the center. The left stations were for the police dispatchers. Fire/EMS sat on the right.

Big screen, flat TVs hung suspended from the ceiling and showed everyone what jobs were in cue, the job priorities, and which jobs had been dispatched.

Certified operators wore uniforms. Blue dress pants, light blue dress shirts. Silver 9-1-1 pins on each collar. A badge over the heart. Name plate on the opposite side. Trainees dressed in business casual clothing, until certified. Which meant we stuck out to everyone. And would continue to do so for roughly the next eight to nine months.

Work shifts were called Platoons. 1st platoon worked from midnight to eight; 2nd Platoon worked eight to four, and 3rd Platoon work four to midnight. I was told during the interview that, if hired, expect to work 1st or 3rd Platoon for at least seven years.

That might bother some people. Working nights or overnights takes a tole. I know. For the first six years at my previous job I worked 12-hour shifts, on a four-day rotation. Two 12-hour days, two 12-hour nights, then four days off. The body never gets used to that. You never knew if you should be having a burger, or scrambled eggs. Forget remembering what day of the week it was. Didn't matter. Just needed to remember where you were in the work cycle.

I'm divorce. Get my kids every other weekend and one day during the week. I lived for them. Live for them, still. Working the overnights suits me fine. Midnight to eights would allow me to still go to every sports practice and game, cheerleading competitions, dance recitals, and all the school functions. Four to midnight would make life much tougher. If I got any say in the matter, 1st Platoon was my first choice. The goal, if it mattered, became to shine in class with the hopes that it might allow me the opportunity to select 1st Platoon if the opportunity presented itself.

One of the three ring binders was filled with 9-1-1 procedures. As a class we were going to review every one. The other was a TCC/Dispatcher manual. And the text book was a general overview of the roles and responsibilities of being a TCC operator.

We did an around-the-room introduction. The class I was in seemed good. The people, friendly. The instructor, knowledgeable. I'd barely slept the night before. Kept checking my alarm to make sure I hadn't over slept, or mis-set the alarm. After all, I hadn't worked in nine months. Getting up on time was not an issue when you're unemployed.

I wasn't tired. I felt ready. While the 26th and 27th had been administrative days -- filling out paperwork for direct deposit, and health care, and sexual harassment and workplace violence training, today, the 28th, was the first day of actual classroom training for the new job. No. strike that. It was the first day of actual classroom training for the new career.

****Stop Back Regularly to Read Updates on Nicholas, the 9-1-1 Trainee****

Thomas Phillips,
Author of The Molech Prophecy

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Getting From There To Here

It was just before Halloween, 2008, when I was called into my supervisor's office. He'd told me and the other paralegal that due to a decline in business one of us was going to be let go. Part of me wanted the other paralegal to be laid off. The other, wanted it to be me who was impacted. Not sure why I felt that way. I'd spent 19 years with the company. Had an office, an admin, and knew the job inside and out.

I worked as an employment law paralegal. Handled complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the various state agencies. I investigated charges of alleged discrimination, prepped witnesses, and supervisors, dealt with all levels of management and outside law firms. Every day was a new adventure.

At the same time, I was losing my zest for the position. I was ready for a change. Maybe that was why part of me wanted to be the one selected for layoff.

When I entered my supervisor's office, and closed the door, he asked me to sit.  I sat. I knew at that moment it was in fact me who was about to lose my job. I'm not sure how I felt when he confirmed this for me. Like someone had punched me in the gut. I was good at my job. The only one in the legal department who did the kind of work I did, and had been doing for a long time. The rationale was that the tasks I performed were going to be pushed onto Human Resources.

I was given sixty days to find other employment. Technically I no longer needed to report to work. However, I was allowed to use the computer and other resources to begin my new job search.

On the county website I found job postings for a 9-1-1 Dispatch Operator. I completed the application and submitted it.

Growing up I wanted to be a police officer. Even started my college days enrolled in a criminal justice program. When I learned that due to my eyesight I would not pass a police entrance physical because of such poor vision, I gave up. A shame, really. Could have used that degree to expand into an array of positions. But I'd been young, and didn't know how to see the bigger picture at the time.

Over the next several months I submitted resumes and job applications to select posts at first, and then to pretty much anywhere as I began to panic about my lack of employment. Luckily, I was given severance pay that would carry me until the end of September 2009.  That, and unemployment insurance -- since, after all, I had lost my job through no fault of my own.

In February I received a letter from the county telling me that an exam for the 9-1-1 Dispatch position was scheduled for early April.  That day came, and I went, and I thought for sure I'd blown the test. We were given 20 minutes to review test directions, maps, codes and abbreviations, as well as Police squad car numbers and assigned work areas. Wearing headphones and listening to mock emergency calls, I was then to enter addresses, brief text about the emergency, forced to search the map for the location of the call, and figure out which officers to dispatch to the scene.  Between each call was about 60 seconds of silence in which to complete the computer form.

I walked out of the exam thinking, "Well, I won't be hearing back from them."

In June, I found out I'd scored a 90% and that I'd be called for the next open interview.

I had contacted a temporary employment agency by now. No one had responded to any of the resumes I'd sent out. I was starting to feel apprehensive about not yet having a job. The unemployment rate was on the rise, and it seemed like -- despite my experience and degree -- no one was hiring paralegals. The agency landed me a job in a factory, working 12-hour shifts.

Thankfully, my interview with 9-1-1 was scheduled for mid-June, followed by 4-hours sitting on the operations floor listening in on actual calls.

In late July, I was sent a letter of conditional employment. The conditions of employment were based on my passing a: 1) Physical, 2) Finger printing check, 3) Police background check, 4) Drug test, and 5) Psychological exam.

These appointments were set for early August.

We, candidates, were told we would not know specifics of pass/fail.

In September I received yet another letter from the county. I'll admit, I was nervous about opening it. While I knew I'd pass the physical, finger printing, police background and drug test, the psychological exam had me worried. Not that I thought I was crazy. But because the thousands of questions asked and answered left me feeling light-headed and unsure about anything. The one-on-one with the psychologist lasted twenty minutes. He focused his questions on my temper, and recent divorce. I answered questions truthfully, but wondered what it was, exactly, he was digging for.

When I opened the envelope I let out a sigh.

I was to begin training for a new job with 9-1-1 on Monday, October 26, 2009 ...

****Please stop back to read more*****

Thomas Phillips
Author of The Molech Prophecy

Thursday, November 19, 2009


My friend, let's call him Nicholas, now works for 9-1-1 as a Dispatch Operator. It wasn't something he's always done. In fact, it wasn't a job he ever expected to land. The thing is, before I can tell you about his new life in Emergency Communications, I need to first tell you a little something about the man he was before.

I have chosen to tell this blog in first person. Voice impacts the way a story flows. And although this is true and acurate, I will tell the tale as if I were Nicholas.

We have all seen reality shows that deal with the-day-in-the-life-of Cops, Ambulance Rescue, and even Meter Maids.  This blog will be similar.  However, I want to point out that this blog (chronicle) will cover the first year of Nicholas' training, from classroom setting, to on the operations floor training, up to eventual certification in the Emergence Communications Department of 9-1-1. IT WILL NOT entail specifics of calls received or dispatched, due to confidentiality and privacy, but WILL include the human element, focusing on the thoughts and emotions that flood through our "main character" as he adapts to new life in a high-stress, high-energy position.

Please stop back regularly to follow along as Nicholas goes from working as an employment law paralegal, to unemployed, to 9-1-1 Dispatch Operator ... And feel free to invite friends and family along for the ride!  (Feedback/Questions are not only welcome, but encouraged!)