Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Scared Silly

I spent 19 years working at Kodak. The last ten were working as an employment law paralegal. I'd earned a degree taking night courses at a local college. When January 2009 came, and I knew I'd be laid off, I assumed--something never safe to do--that I'd be employable.

I contacted all the lawfirms Kodak dealt with and explained that due to the on-going downsizings, I'd been let go and would love to work at SAID firm. Got a lot of responses. Positive ones. But no interviews. Next, I contacted other law firms, certain someone in the city had to be hiring. My resume was polished, and I knew it was just a matter of time before I received a call from one of them.

Fortunately Kodak offered a wonderful severence package. Two-weeks pay for each year of service, and free health benefits for the first four months. By April, when the benefits expired, and I still didn't have a job, I began to panic.

The hiring process at 9-1-1 was underway, but if you read previous blogs you'll see it moved along slowly.  Fortunately, my severence pay ended at the end of September. My job with 9-1-1 started at the end of October. I planned for this, and set aside as much money each week as possible, knowing I'd need a bit of a nest egg to get me through 6 weeks without a check.

I can honestly say that I drove on fumes until my first city paycheck.

In class, a lot of the training revolved around a central topic: Things You Should Not Do If You Want To Keep Your Job.

The list was extensive. Each example was filled with more examples of how employment terminated over the years.

No cell phones on the operations floor.

Problem here is simple. If an operator gets a call that requires police need to be dispatched. Let's say the operator knows the suspect the police are looking for. The natural response of the operator might be to text the "suspect" and warn them. Think about it. It could happen.

Cell phones are also a distraction. Face it. People can't drive to the corner store without texting while at the wheel. With emergency calls coming in, operators need to be focused. A cell phone is clearly a distraction. Texting might keep an operator from answering a call immediately, or might tempt an operator to multi-task -- and what I mean by that is: Listen to the caller, type in the information, all while thumbing a text to a girlfriend. Hmmm. Seems like an easy way to make a serious mistake.

No sharing confidential information.

Should be self explanatory, right? It's been told that employees have been terminated for talking outside of work. Sharing specifics about calls taken during a shift. Might seem innocent enough. The way I hear it, someone was talking about a call in a diner or something. They said the name or address of a call they'd taken, and then openly mocked the caller. Problem here? Couple in the booth behind them knew the caller. Word got back that a 9-1-1 operator was blabbing their business in public. Call was made to the office. Complaint filed. Employee ... gone.

The computers at 9-1-1 allow operators and dispatchers access to information "civilians" wouldn't have access to. Warrant databanks, criminal records, medical information. You get caught taking that information off the operations floor and out of the facility at night, you might as well keep walking. No sense coming back to work. Sounds crazy, but apparently, it's happened. And sometimes, criminal charges have been filed against the 9-1-1 employee.

Customer service is key.

What is 9-1-1 but a glorified call-center? We provide customer service to the public. Instead of complaints surrounding ill-tempered cable problems, or computer malfunctions ... we're sending police, fire or ambulances ... so maybe "glorified" is too simplistic.

Bottom line still applies. The caller is the customer. Treat them with respect. It's important to always remember that they are calling 9-1-1 during a crisis in their life. This means they may be irrational, mean, or hysterical. They may not treat the operator with respect. In fact, they more than likely won't treat the operator with respect. Regardless, it is our job to calm them, gather information, and get help out as quickly as possible.

What this means? No hanging up on the caller. 

Uh-huh. Got it.

Welcome probie.

My bad. In earlier blogs I kept referring to myself as a trainee. Wrong term. We're probies. Us new people. (Prohbational employees). The title sticks until certification. Cerftification comes roughly eight months out. Our job as probies -- keep your head down, your mouth shut, and your ears open.

9-1-1 is like any place of employment. Different personalities abound. Clicks for one kind of group here, clicks for another, there. Probies should avoid getting caught up in the drama. Our role is to learn. Study. Ask meaningful questions. Keep the nose clean. Focus on the job.

Apparently it's easy to get sucked in. Tough thing is, if you require additional training supervisors and employees are either going to say the probie's been working hard, and studying, or the probie's been goofing around and not concentrating on the task of learning. If you fall into the latter, come certification time that could be the difference between getting extra help, or being let go.

There are more examples of what one can fo to get fired ... and I am certain more examples will appear in future blogs. But for right now, without giving myself a panic attack, I am going to stop.

I get the rules. I've heard them repeated more than once, by more than one person.

I know what needs doing, and plan to work to get done what needs getting done ...

******Be sure to stop in often to read more of this blog********

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

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