Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Enough Acronyms To Make You T.H.I.N.K.

For five weeks of classroom training, enough text books were handed out to make one feel like they'd entered law school.

I was hired to be a Fire / EMT dispatch. This meant, when all is said and done, I won't be sitting on the phones taking 9-1-1 calls, but working the radios, dispatching fire trucks and ambulances where needed. Regardless, I was expected to learn how to handle calls. But in less time than one hired specifically for that position. The employees who answer 9-1-1 calls are referred to as Telecommunicators.

That's what just started. Telecommunicator training.

I've got the books to prove it.

Two three ring binders, stuffed full, covered policies and procedures, and was assured we'd review each and every one. There was also a TCC reference book that we'd go through, cover to cover.

Attention was drawn to six pages in particular. Event codes. The acronyms found on the pages were followed by descriptions, or definitions. When a TCC gets a call, they need to conduct an interview. Based on the answers, they must then decided what event code is needed. The entered event codes tell the computer if a police, fire, ambulance, or any combination is required. I stopped counting event codes at around 100. I know there's more. The index cards I bought to make study flash cards came in a 100 pack. And I used them. All. With pages worth of codes left to copy.

For the most part the acronyms made sense. If there is a fight, the code is FGHT. For a motor vehicle accident, MVA. The tough part came from the exceptions to the rule. Made it tougher to memorize. For example, the event code, FIREB is for brush and grass fires, or any small fire not involving a structure, or vehicle. But it is also used for suspicious packages received in the mail. (Guess we can thank 9/11 for the need of such an event code description).

Acronyms don't stop there. Towns, counties, police and fire departments, forms, and computer systems are all acronym named. Again, most make sense to hear them. To see them. But to remember them? Not so much.

When a TCC takes a call, they have to--aside from gather information such as the caller's name, number they're calling from, address where they need assistance--type in TEXT to explain what is going on to the Fire/EMT or Police dispatch. The TEXT is abbreviation-driven. Naturally. Black is BK, Northbound is NB, last seen wearing is LSW, do not identify is DNI ... again, mostly simple, common sense abbreviations, but remembering which words need to be abbreviated, and which don't matter, are required, expected.

It's a whole new language is what I'm saying. And the alphabet--forgiddaboudit. Unlike the military, 9-1-1 doesn't use Alpha for A, Beta for B, Charlie for C. They have their own way of announcing letters over the air. It's name based. Adam ... and I can't remember the rest. They are not in front of me. The point, I think, I've made.

For the next several weeks, while reviewing policies and procedures, I've begun to dedicate breaks, lunches and time at home to studying the acronyms and abbreviations. When the five weeks is up, when I'm expected to spend another five weeks taking 9-1-1 calls, my goal is to be ready, knowledgeable of the event codes, abbreviations and acronyms, if not having them committed to memory.

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Thomas Phillips
Author of The Molech Prophecy and the 2010 release of Convicted

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