911 Dispatch Center as a TV Show

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911 Dispatch Center as a TV Show

Postby jdembner on Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:57 pm

Hey guys. Following up to something I posted a little while ago. I'm writing a script for a TV show about 911 dispatchers (unsung heroes) and have some questions that I was hoping you all could give some insight on. It's a long list, so any info would be helpful.

Here goes:

1) Is there any drama inside of the station itself that you find interesting? IE Between 911 dispatchers, between dispatchers and their bosses, between dispatchers and police (if they are in the same space). Any interpersonal problems that interfere with job performance?

2) What aspect of the job that people don't know would you like to see explored on the show?

3) The set up of a station itself. Are there call centers connected to police stations and if so, what is that interplay?

4) What is the difference between 911 dispatch and police dispatch? Who handles what? Does 911 only get cops to the scene and then the police dispatch takes over once the police arrive on scene or are they one and the same? What are their specific duties? What are the differences?

5) Could there ever be a situation where if the two were connected (police station and call center) that the person who oversees the 911 dispatch is the same person who oversees the police dispatch? (IE perhaps in a town that is small, there is overlap because of budget cuts or something or perhaps the same thing even in a major city)

6) In a major city like Los Angeles, we've heard that there are only like 8 call centers in total. Is that true? Are there other shocking discrepancies in size of major cities to how few call centers there are and how much area each has to cover?

7) If you work in a call center in a major city, but there are only a few call centers, how well does a dispatcher know the area they cover?

8) What are the most dramatic aspects of your work?

9) What are the things you take home with you that you wish you didn't?

10) Are there ever calls that are a mystery to you while you're on the phone? Any that ever remain a mystery even after the police arrive and see the scene itself? (IE. You receive a call and think one thing is happening, the police arrive and think another thing is happening or happened, and you never get any real closure as to what actually happened?)

Again, thank you so much. Hope to represent the center realistically.
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Re: 911 Dispatch Center as a TV Show

Postby MrJim911 on Sun Sep 12, 2010 12:58 pm

jdembner wrote:Hey guys. Following up to something I posted a little while ago. I'm writing a script for a TV show about 911 dispatchers (unsung heroes) and have some questions that I was hoping you all could give some insight on. It's a long list, so any info would be helpful.

Here goes:

1) Is there any drama inside of the station itself that you find interesting? IE Between 911 dispatchers, between dispatchers and their bosses, between dispatchers and police (if they are in the same space). Any interpersonal problems that interfere with job performance?

Every workplace has drama. 911 centers are no exception, although I don't think the "drama" is going to be unique.

2) What aspect of the job that people don't know would you like to see explored on the show?

Stress. It is EQUAL to that of police officers, and in some ways greater because we do not get closure.

3) The set up of a station itself. Are there call centers connected to police stations and if so, what is that interplay?

I would guess that a majority of PSAPs are in a shared public safety building, there are some like mine that are in their own building, but I'm guessing we are in the minority.

4) What is the difference between 911 dispatch and police dispatch? Who handles what? Does 911 only get cops to the scene and then the police dispatch takes over once the police arrive on scene or are they one and the same? What are their specific duties? What are the differences?

You apply disparity where none exists. I answer a 911 call, then I pend it for the police or fire dispatcher. We are in the same building. There are some 911 centers with different set ups, you would have to investigate different centers to see which one you would want to write about.

5) Could there ever be a situation where if the two were connected (police station and call center) that the person who oversees the 911 dispatch is the same person who oversees the police dispatch? (IE perhaps in a town that is small, there is overlap because of budget cuts or something or perhaps the same thing even in a major city)

Again, there is no difference between the two. We answer the call and then dispatch it.

6) In a major city like Los Angeles, we've heard that there are only like 8 call centers in total. Is that true? Are there other shocking discrepancies in size of major cities to how few call centers there are and how much area each has to cover?

There is only 1 911 center in LA, not 8. I'm not sure what you are referring too, perhaps we have a LA local here that can help...

7) If you work in a call center in a major city, but there are only a few call centers, how well does a dispatcher know the area they cover?

Every city only has 1 911 center.

8) What are the most dramatic aspects of your work?

9) What are the things you take home with you that you wish you didn't?

Nothng, I learned early in my career not to bring work home.

10) Are there ever calls that are a mystery to you while you're on the phone? Any that ever remain a mystery even after the police arrive and see the scene itself? (IE. You receive a call and think one thing is happening, the police arrive and think another thing is happening or happened, and you never get any real closure as to what actually happened?)

We get closure on very few calls. It is part of the job.

Again, thank you so much. Hope to represent the center realistically.


Based on the questions you are asking I would suggest visiting a 911 center to get a better understanding of how a 911 center works before trying to script a TV show. And don't forget that Discovery Health already has such a show on TV.
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Re: 911 Dispatch Center as a TV Show

Postby BrandiC on Thu Sep 23, 2010 5:44 am

1) Is there any drama inside of the station itself that you find interesting? IE Between 911 dispatchers, between dispatchers and their bosses, between dispatchers and police (if they are in the same space). Any interpersonal problems that interfere with job performance?

There's always drama as with any workplace. There's rumors that go around, there are personality types that clash, there's dating drama. There can be a dispatcher who is burnt out and not doing a good job and officers question his/her judgement. There can be interpersonal problems that interfere with the job, although it shouldn't happen it does. If two people get into an argument and aren't speaking to each other, but are handling related calls and should be communicating - that can cause problems.

2) What aspect of the job that people don't know would you like to see explored on the show?

I can't think of anything specific, but it would be nice to see accuracy. Every time 911 centers are profiled on TV shows, they are always inaccurate. Spend some time in a dispatch center, more than one because they are all run differently. Have a consultant who is actually a dispatcher review the script for accuracy.

3) The set up of a station itself. Are there call centers connected to police stations and if so, what is that interplay?

Some dispatch centers are connected to police stations or sheriff's offices, many are independent agencies or departments in their own building. Even with those that are connected to law enforcement offices, there can be vastly different set ups and levels of interactions based on the individual agency, size being the number one factor. At my small department (we have 7 dispatchers and 7 patrol deputies) we are in the same building as the county jail and sheriff's office and we ourselves are sworn sheriff's deputies. I see the patrol deputies I dispatch for every day. We know each other's spouses and kids and most of our friends are in law enforcement so we see each other outside of work. I recently visited a dispatch center that was within a medium sized police department, but in a building detached from the main building, the officers never went into dispatch and had no interaction with the dispatchers except for work related telephone calls. I also recently visited a dispatch center that was an independant agency that dispatched for every police, fire and ambulance agency in the county. It is in its own building surrounded by a security fence where only dispatchers are allowed, no one else can enter the building so no law enforcement officers interact with the dispatchers

4) What is the difference between 911 dispatch and police dispatch? Who handles what? Does 911 only get cops to the scene and then the police dispatch takes over once the police arrive on scene or are they one and the same? What are their specific duties? What are the differences?

Like the previous post said, there is no difference. A PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) will answer 911 calls for a specific area - it could be one city, or one entire county, or certain cities and counties within a geographical area. The people that answer 911 calls are usually called Call Takers in larger agencies, many are called 911 Dispatchers. They may take the call, enter it into a computer form called CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) and then in most larger agencies another dispatcher will get the alert that a CAD was just entered and dispatch it to the appropriate agency. In some areas the call taker will transfer non-police calls such as fire and ambulance to the fire or ambulance agency to deal with. Where I work I answer 911 calls, while on the phone with the reporting party (RP) I enter the info into CAD and dispatch the appropriate agency (police, fire or medical) and stay on the phone as long as necessary all while talking to the officers, firefighters and paramedics who are responding

5) Could there ever be a situation where if the two were connected (police station and call center) that the person who oversees the 911 dispatch is the same person who oversees the police dispatch? (IE perhaps in a town that is small, there is overlap because of budget cuts or something or perhaps the same thing even in a major city)

Again, see previous. I think you are confusing call takers with dispatchers. A person who answers a 911 call and does not talk on the radio is called a call taker (they may also be dispatchers, just to make it confusing). A person who talks on the radio is called a dispatcher. If an agency answers 911 calls, they are also dispatching law enforcement so they will have police dispatchers. Some agencies have employees who are only call takers, employees who are only police dispatchers and employees who are only fire or medical dispatchers. Some agencies only handle police emergencies and transfer fire and medical calls out to other agencies. Larger agencies that dispatch for multiple law enforcement agencies will usually have designated call takers as well as specific dispatchers to handle the radio traffic for one or a small group of agencies.

6) In a major city like Los Angeles, we've heard that there are only like 8 call centers in total. Is that true? Are there other shocking discrepancies in size of major cities to how few call centers there are and how much area each has to cover?

In one city, there will only be one PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point / 911 center), however, in one county or geographical area there could be many or only one. Centers can be big or small and dispatch for only one police department or for every police, fire and ambulance agency in a large geographical area. It just depends on the local setup. I used to live in LA and know that there are several 911 centers in Los Angeles county and Orange county. They are all large centers where many, many people work. And yes, the discrepancies in size from one city to another can be vast. It is all about call volum and staffing levels. A large center that dispatches for a large area with many agencies does just fine even with a very high call volum, as long as they are run well and have a good staffing level. I am often the only person at work at my 911 center and do everything. But again, it works fine because we have a lower call volume.

7) If you work in a call center in a major city, but there are only a few call centers, how well does a dispatcher know the area they cover?

The part of your question about having only a few call centers is irrelevant. But, if you cover a large geographical area you may not know the area you cover very well. Sometimes that causes problems, sometimes it doesn't.

What are the most dramatic aspects of your work?

We can often answer crazy, hectic calls. Most are routine, even boring. But when the phone rings, you never know what you are going to get. On a daily basis we talk to people going through the worst moment of their lives, its a fine balance between being caring and compassionate and keeping your own sanity. Most dispatchers become callous (that doesn't mean we aren't compassionate with a caller), where even horrific calls seem routine to us because its just another day at work. I find the crazy/hectic calls exciting, but I don't look forward to talking to a person who is losing a loved one. It can be very difficult to take certain types of calls, the hardest invovle children. We get calls from parents whose child is dead or severly injured. No dispatcher ever wants to get a call about a stranger abduction or a child that has been sexually assaulted or intentionally harmed. The call we also all dread is one from our loved ones, especially in smaller agencies it happens where a parent gets a call from their spouse that their child is choking or injured or missing, or gets a call from their mom that their dad is having a heart attack or a call from their teen that someone is breaking into their house - and you can't run out the door to go help them.

9) What are the things you take home with you that you wish you didn't?

Wondering whether you did the right thing. Wondering how a call turned out. We often do not hear the turnout, so we don't get closure. We may walk a mother through performing CPR on her child and never know if that child lived

10) Are there ever calls that are a mystery to you while you're on the phone? Any that ever remain a mystery even after the police arrive and see the scene itself? (IE. You receive a call and think one thing is happening, the police arrive and think another thing is happening or happened, and you never get any real closure as to what actually happened?)

For most dispatchers, this happens all the time. Smaller agencies are easier, because I see the deputies every day so I can ask what happened with a weird call. Or they call me just to tell me about it because it was odd. I have handled some strange calls and many calls that an officer would tell us is "not as reported".
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Re: 911 Dispatch Center as a TV Show

Postby jdembner on Sat Feb 12, 2011 7:06 pm

Never got a chance to thank you guys for these great responses. I'll keep you posted on what happens next. Thanks again for all the amazing work you do!
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Re: 911 Dispatch Center as a TV Show

Postby redvelvetcake_57 on Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:57 am

I saw the date of this post and wondered if anything ever happen concerning a show about 911 Telecommunicators/dispatchers? I remembered a while back when I wanted to write a book about all my experiences concerning telecommunicators and dispatchers and I met with a lot of resentment. Funny, but what the hell are you upset for if you did whatever you did? The way I see it is, if you did not want anybody to know you did the deed or made the mistake over and over, you should have thought about that before you did it again.

Then there is the other part of the job...you know...the parts that concern dating in the department, who is having an affair with what officer, scandal, drama, ring kissers and all that. All of that information should be included in the book or the television show.
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