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Smoking = Call 911

A contradiction has arisen in Omaha (Neb.), where police are telling residents to dial 911 to report violations of the the smoking ban at businesses that serve food or alcohol, but they’re considered low-priority incidents. PIO Sgt. Teresa Negron told a reporter, “”[It's like] any other crime that happens in any city — if somebody sees a crime happen, they can call 911 and report it.” She said that during the first week dispatchers handled about 10 calls related to the new smoking law. “Calls concerning the smoking ban were not high-priority calls, so we have a system in place that calls that come in and have a higher priority will be handled.”

Firefighter Wins Appeal

An arbitrator has ruled that Peabody (Mass.) firefighter John Brophy was disciplined too severely for sleeping through a telephone call from the police department reporting a medical emergency. Brophy was working the watch desk in May 2005, but had gone to sleep in a firehouse bed when a police dispatcher tried to notify him of an infant with a breathing problem. Police officers had to drive to the firehouse and pound on the door to alert firefighters. The city fired Brophy, but an arbitrator has now ruled he should be suspended for 30 days without pay. The city said an off-duty altercation between Brophy and a fire captain, and a work-related drug testing dispute also figured in his firing. The city is considering whether to appeal the arbitrator’s ruling.

NENA Proposes Fed Goals

NENA has posted a White Paper that proposes goals for the recently-implemented, federal-level 9-1-1 Implementation and Coordination Office (ICO), noting there is plenty of work that could be done before grant money is available in 2008. The association says the ICO should build awareness of the federal office, research and disseminate 911 information, perform state outreach, promote next-generation 911, and begin setting grant standards. Download the entire White Paper here.

Keep Transmitters On = $$$$

Suffolk (UK) police have been told they can keep five of their radio system’s antena sites turned on…if they come up with $222,000 a year to pay the company that operates the national Airwave police network. The company O2 built the law enforcement radio system in the UK, and says the five antenna sites aren’t needed for full coverage for the Suffolk police. They say the completed system was found to have lots of overlapping radio coverage, which they say was never part of the original contract. But police officials dispute that claim. Jim Keeble, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, told a reporter that O2’s plans as an example of “sharp business practice,” and that officer safety would be at issue if the antenna sites are turned off.

Dispatcher Saves Women

Kudos to Angels Ambulance (Mass.) dispatcher Joseph Jackson, who pulled three women from a burning home in Brockton that he spotted while coming home from work. Jackson, 24, and his cousin saw the smoke from the house, stopped and grabbed the women as they were inside trying to rescue their dogs. “The smoke was just intense. I don’t know how they withstood to go in there two times to get the dogs,” Jackson told a reporter. Read more about the fire here.

Judge Tosses Lawsuit

Camden (NJ) Superior Court judge Charles A. Little dismissed a lawsuit against former dispatcher Marie Cupparo and the city of Camden, saying state law provides immunity for them in this situation. The suit was filed by the family of Christin Eberle, who was kidnapped from a transit station and murdered by two men in 2001, and a witness dialed 911 to report it. However, according to Camden police, Cupparo failed to dispatch officers, who believed it was a disagreement that apparently didn’t require a police response. The two suspects were caught and convicted, and are served 43-year sentences in prison. The region’s transit agency reached a confidential settlement with the family last week. The family’s attorney says they will appeal.

FCC Refuses Waiver

The FCC does give public safety agencies some benefits when allocating spectrum, but you still have to prove your case. A recent FCC waiver denial outlines why Morgan County (Tenn.) did not receive permission to use a VHF paging channel to create a repeated radio channel for their EMS operations. The FCC said the county failed to provide support for its claim that no other VHF frequencies were available, did not include a request for the second needed frequency, and failed to demonstrate “any unique or unusual factual circumstances that would warrant grant of a waiver.” The Commission did say the county could re-file the request. Download (pdf) the FCC’s decision and reasoning here.

Debate Over Center Size

Two Kern County (Calif.) officials butted heads over the size of a proposed emergency operations center for the county’s public safety agencies. Fire chief Dennis Thompson and assistant county administrative officer Bill Wilbanks debated the issue during a county board meeting, the former proposing 10,000 square-feet, and the latter 4,000 s.f. Apparently there was a mis-communication over the issue, and both shooks hands after some terse words during the meeting. No word on why a fire chief and an admin officer were making the size decision. Read more here.

No Money for Radio

Selectmen in the town of Southborough (Mass.) are willing to spend $65,000 to upgrade the police department’s radio system to eliminate deadspots–but not until 2008. Chief William Webber said the black-out zones include a commuter rail station where officers handled an incident last August when a man jumped from a train. Two officers that were 200 yards apart could not communicate at the scene. Officers claim that 20% of the town isn’t covered by the radio system.

Dispatchers’ Radio Interview

WGN (Chicago) radio host Milt Rosenberg interviewed three dispatchers, including Caroline Burau, the author of the just-published book, “Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat.” Rosenberg seemed to be interested in the tragic parts of the job and how it affects dispatchers, based on the questions he asked Burau and James Argiropolous, deputy director of information services for Chicago’s 911 center, and Ron Stewart, a police communications supervisor at Chicago 911. “Do you come away cynical?” he asked them. Listen to the interview here.

Dispatcher Warned Officers

Lawrence (Kan.) police have released selected logging tapes and CAD records of an officer-involved shooting where a woman was shot and killed by an officer after she allegedly came out of her trailer home and confronted an officer. The woman’s boyfriend had asked officers to check on her welfare, and the first arriving officer radioed that the woman came to the front door with a handgun. The woman then dialed 911 and spoke to a dispatcher, who radioed officers, “If officers go to the back, she’s willing to shoot.” Police didn’t release the conversation between the woman and the dispatcher to verify what the woman said verbatim. Read the story here. Read an additional story here.

Amish Shooting Transcripts

The Lancaster County (Penn.) district attorney has released transcripts of four phone calls made in connection with the murders of five girls at an Amish school last week. Three of the calls are answered initially by a dispatcher at the Lancaster County 911 center, and one was a call-back when the original call was disconnected. The county dispatcher tried to transfer the first call to the state police, which has jurisdiction where the shootings occurred. During the call from gunman Charles Roberts, he told the dispatcher to have state police move away from the school, not to transfer him to the state police. “No, you tell them and that’s it. Right now or they’re dead, in two seconds.” Roberts hung up just after delivering his message, and police say he began shooting moments later. Three minutes after his call, Roberts’ his wife called to tell a dispatcher he had called her, saying he “wasn’t coming home.” Read the transcript here.

NIDA Membership Open

The National Incident Dispatcher Association (NIDA) has quickly filled up its alloted 200 charter members, and is now taking on-line application for general memberships in the categories of Active, Associate, Retired and Commercial Levels. The new association reflects the increasing interest in field-level dispatching and the training required for its specialized operations. The group is offering 15-month memberships for the price of 12. To apply, surf here.

Convoluted TV Show

The Sunday episode of CBS’ “Without a Trace” was accurate on some dispatching details, but was not authentic on either New York City’s dispatching procedures or technology. The biggest problem was the overly complex story that put a PSTD-inflicted 911 calltaker into the role of revenger for a sexual assault that took place in her past. Jessica, the missing dispatcher being tracked by the FBI’s special unit, was helping domestic violence victims off-duty, which generated lots of false leads–and the death of her pet dog. Eventually the FBI’s attention focused on a 911 call Jessica had answered, during which she apparently recognized the caller’s voice as the man who raped her six years earlier when she was in medical school. She then stole a handgun and confronted the man in a warehouse, but the FBI arrived in time to convince her at gunpoint that she had the wrong suspect. The dispatching details succeeded where they could have sunk the show. But It was the flipped-out dispatcher who definitely pushed the show into strange-ville.

2 Bids for Louisville Radio

The opening paragraph of a Louisville (Ken.) Courier-Journal newspaper story takes an optimistic approach. “Two companies are bidding to install the next phase of Louisville metro government’s planned emergency communication system, raising hopes that the price will be more in line with what city officials had expected,” the story begins. Apparently the reporter doesn’t realize that it also increases the risk that the final bid award will end with a protest by either M/A-COMM or Motorola. Last May the city threw out the single Motorola bid it received, because it was $95 million, over what the city’s is willing to pay. Read more about the bids here.