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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.

Radio: Lives at Risk

The lives of York County (SC) law enforcement officers are on the line, according to those who spoke to the Herald newspaper, if politicians don’t agree to pay fees associated with the county’s new 800 MHz trunked radio system coming on-line later this year. The mostly-small cities are balking at paying the fees associated with buying new radios and have asked the county to forego the fees, but so far the county has declined. Read more here.

New Unified DC Center

An inscription in stone at the entrance to the new Unified Communications Center in Washington (DC) states, “We can, we will safeguard our great city and our people.” DC and regional officials cut the ribbon last week for the new center that consolidates public safety communications for the District’s police, fire and EMS agencies, and also provides EOC space for multitude of regional agencies to handle major incidents. The 127,000 square-foot facility includes a child-care center for employee’s, a stress reduction room, a cafeteria and “terrace retreat” overlooking the city. The building also houses the District’s city-service call center, which is now reachable by a 7-digit number. Find more information about the UCC here.

911 Center Evacuation

The huge fire in a chemical waster processing plant forced the evacuation of dispatchers at the Apex (NC) comm center on Friday morning. All 911 calls to the town (pop. 20,012) were re-routed to the Wake County 911 center for handling. The county also activated its emergency alerting system, which telephoned residents with shelter-in-place and evacuations orders. There have been no fatalities reported so far, but at least 44 persons were taken to hospitals for treatment from the huge toxic clouds that formed over the plant following giant explosions, and which then drifted over the town.

Goof Nabs Machine Gun

A two-part goof put officers at the back door of a Bethalto (Mo.) home, where they obtained permission from the owner to search the house, and found an illegal fully-automatic rifle. An unnamed dispatcher received a cellular 911 call and only heard a female voice screaming. Officers were dispatched to the ALI-displayed location, which turned out to be about a mile from the actual caller. When police arrived at the wrong home, they couldn’t make contact with anyone, and so walked next door to find a broken back window (which turned out to be accidental). They contacted the owner, who granted permission to search, and a modified, full-auto AK-47 was found. The suspect has now pleaded guilty in federal court.

TV: Missing Dispatcher

This Sunday’s episode of the CBS prime time show Without a Trace is entitled, “911,” and the network summarizes it as, “Malone and the team search for a 911 operator who goes missing after receiving a threatening phone call from a man who asked for her by name.” A preview of the episode shows a man confronting a woman in front of the comm center building and shouting, “You put me on hold for five minutes!” Check you local listings–you won’t want to miss this one!

Deputy Honored in Death

Three alert tones on the radio were part of ceremonies honoring Hall County (Geo.) Deputy Tim White, who died one year ago in an auto accident. Following the tones, a dispatcher announced on the radio that White’s badge #419 would be retired. White was the first deputy at the agency to die in the line of duty. Sheriff Steve Cronic said the agency would forever commemorate Oct. 3rd to observe and remember White, not to dwell on his death, but “how enriched we were by having Tim as part of our family.”

Cyren Call Gets Funding

Cyren Call chairman Morgan O’Brien has convinced four venture capital firms to invest $4 million in the company, apparently hoping to take an early stake in a potentially lucrative bid to design, build and operate a nationwide public safety radio system. O’Brien is now lobbying members of Congress to reserve certain spectrum for public safety, rather than auction it off to commercial interests and send the revenues to the U.S. treasury. Under O’Brien’s plan, private companies and revenues from the public safety radio system would replace the auction revenues. Previous auctions have raised several billion dollars, with the latest auction raising $13.9 billion. Another company, M2Z Networks, has petitioned the FCC to build and operate a national radio network in 20 MHz of spectrum in the 2100 MHz band. The proposal includes providing some free services to public safety agencies, among other groups. Download (pdf) the M2Z proposal here.

VoIP/911 Legislation Killed

In the rush to pass port security legislation last Friday night, the Congress stipped out an amendment that would set various VoIP/E911 provisions. Several members of Congress said they were disappointed about the removal, and that they would re-visit the legislation when Congress re-convenes after the November elections. Among other things, the legislation would have provided liability protection for VoIP providers offering 911 service, and established plans for a national, IP-based 911 network. Download (pdf) the proposed legislation here.

NENA President To Step Down

In an e-mail statement to members, NENA president Bill Munn said he has made the “difficult” decision to step down as president of the association in November, “to be more available for my family and also to pursue new employment opportunities.” He added that, “It has become apparent that my best opportunities are in the private sector or outside 9-1-1, both of which would preclude my being able to also serve effectively as NENA President.” His term as president would have ended in June 2007. Munn said that many of his goals had been met, and that 1st Vice President, Jason Barbour would serve out the remainder of his term.