Dispatcher Training Manual
Call-Taking

VOICE QUALITY

You should speak slowly and clearly on the telephone and with adequate volume. If callers cannot hear or understand you, you will have to repeat your questions, which wastes time.

You voice should project authority and knowledge, backed up by a certainty of what you are telling the caller. If you are hesitant or seem unsure, the caller will probably question your answers or your ability to help.

Use plain, everyday language with the public--never use the Ten Code, legal terms or law enforcement jargon.

TELEPHONE GREETING

Because all calls to the comm center are potential emergencies, you must promptly answer all incoming calls. If you are not able to immediately handle the call because of other incoming calls, radio traffic, etc., ask the caller "Do you have an emergency?" If the caller says "No", tell them "Hold on, please." If the caller indicates they have an emergency, ask them "What is the emergency?", then proceed to handle it if necessary.

Different telephone lines are answered somewhat differently, as indicated in the previous section on Equipment. For review, this is the way you should answer incoming lines:

  • -8181/8243 "Oaktown Police and Fire"
  • 911 "Oaktown emergency"
  • -8300 "Oaktown TTY line"
  • -8400 "Dispatch" or "Police dispatch"
  • -8500 "Fire dispatch"
  • -8550 "Fire dispatch"

ANSWERING PRIORITY

The possibility of capturing a criminal increases as the response time decreases. A response to emergency medical calls must be made within four minutes, as that is when the irreversible effects of a heart stoppage begin. Response to fires must also be rapid. Therefore, a response to an emergency calls must be made as soon as possible. For this reason, calls received on the 911 or the -6161 emergency lines shall always receive top priority over other comm center activity. Calls on the direct lines should be answered next, then the business numbers.

Dispatchers must answer all emergency line calls immediately and determine if an emergency exists. If so, handle the call. If not, ask the caller to hold or transfer them to the appropriate department, agency or person. If other calls are "ringing in" while you are handling a non-emergency call, you should ask the person "Hold on, please," put the person on hold and answer the other incoming call. Ask the caller "Do you have an emergency?" If they say "No," you should then return to the holding call as soon as possible. You should not answer calls by simply saying "Please hold" and putting the caller on hold. You must determine the priority of each call by asking each caller, "Do you have an emergency?"

If you put a caller on hold after obtaining some information about their problem, remember or write down the information so they won't have to start over when you return to them.

If you encounter a call that you cannot handle or refer within a short period of time (2-3 minutes), refer the call to your supervisor for resolution. It is important that you remain available to answer emergency calls.

ETIQUETTE

When dealing with all callers, you are required to maintain a polite and friendly tone. You are not expected to tolerate profanity or other verbal abuse from callers, but neither are you permitted to be profane or verbally abusive to them. If the caller has a legitimate request of the police department, dispatch an officer and do not become involved in an argument. If the caller clearly does not have a police department problem but persists on talking, refer them to the proper agency and then say that you have other calls to answer.

If you determine that you cannot provide a service to a caller, explain to them why can't. Tell them the department's policy on the subject, that the nature of the incident is handled by another agency, etc. Never simply tell a caller "We can't do that." Tell them why, too.

You should use the person's name when addressing them, especially if you must put them on HOLD. This will impress the person that you have not forgotten them and that you remember their call.

You should always maintain a business-like attitude when taking calls, even if the situation seems humorous or funny. You should sound sympathetic and never make light of a caller's situation. Don't make jokes or relate funny stories to illustrate a point--the caller may not get your punch line. If the caller comments that the situation is funny or odd, you might agree with them, but never make them feel foolish.

You shall not make remarks critical of any race, class or group of people. The Police and Fire Department provide service to anyone who has a proper need, without regard to other factors.

You should not attempt to educate a caller in terminology or the law--you may just make the caller feel dumb or start an argument. For example, if a caller says they've been "robbed," don't feel compelled explain that it's really a burglary. Instead...

"Someone broke into your house while you were gone?"

"Yes."

"We can send an officer out to take a burglary report. What is your address?"

You are required to give your last name or operator number to any citizen who requests it. Many abusive callers try to put the dispatcher on the defensive by asking for their name. If the dispatcher refuses, the caller then takes advantage of the dispatcher's defensive position to make further complaints. The easiest way to handle these callers is to immediately give your name and to offer to connect the caller to a supervisor to resolve any complaint.

If a caller is upset, hysterical, hostile or angry, tell them "I understand that you're angry (upset, etc.) about this, but I need to ask you some questions so that an officer can respond. What is your address?...." This will demonstrate that you understand the situation, that you intend to send assistance and need to obtain certain information to do it.

If the caller is abusive and it's obvious you cannot interact with them, ask them to hold and refer the call to a supervisor or another dispatcher. In most cases, "double teaming" with another dispatcher will resolve the initial conflict.

Many times, a sincerely-made apology for a dispatch delay, previous misunderstanding or another dispatcher's actions will satisfy the caller and put the call "back on track." You should never feel defensive about admitting a previous mistake. Apologize, give them the correct information and then move on to helping them with their problem.

You may receive complaints from citizens concerning your courtesy or handling of their telephone call. You are subject to discipline for verified complaints, including oral or written reprimands or days off without pay.

CONTROL OF CONVERSATION

It's important that you maintain control of all telephone conversations, so that you obtain all the necessary information in the least amount of time. Talkative or insistent callers are difficult to question and may take a longer time to handle.

The caller usually knows what occurred, but not how to report it to the police. It's up to you to direct the caller's knowledge into meaningful answers. You may tell the person "Slow down for a moment. Let me ask you some questions," or "Take a deep breath, sir, and let me ask you some questions." Anything that will momentarily divert them, yet let them know that you are going to help them, will assist in maintaining control.

The most effective tactic is asking short, specific questions, such as their name, address, telephone number, where they are, etc. The questions should obtain relevant information and should maintain a "flow" free of interruptions. If you pause too long or become sidetracked with other duties, control of the conversation will end and you'll have to re-establish it.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE CALLERS

If a caller on an emergency line does not speak English, you must have the conversation translated. If the call is on 911 and the caller speaks Spanish, Cantonese or Vietnamese, press the ADD button, wait for the dial tone and then dial 800+448-3003. You must stay on the line while the translator obtains the necessary information and relays it to you. If the caller speaks another language, you must find a person who speaks that language among station or field personnel. Several police officers speak foreign languages including Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, French, Italian and German.

COLLECT CALLS

The fire and police departments do not accept collect calls from citizens except in extraordinary circumstances. If an operator calls and asks if you will accept a collect call from a citizen, tell them, "This is the Oaktown Police and Fire Department. We can't accept collect calls. If the caller is in Oaktown and has an emergency, tell them to hang up and dial nine-one-one."

You may accept collect calls from a police officer or firefighter, whether on-duty or not. However, it's expected that such calls would only be made for urgent matters. If you accept a collect call and believe that it was for a routine purpose, notify your supervisor.

In certain situations, the police or fire department administration will prearrange acceptance of collect calls from department members who are out of the city. In these cases, you will be given the names of those persons from whom you may accept collect calls.

CHRONIC CALLERS

Each call to the police department should be carefully screened, even those from persons who call very frequently with non-dispatch incidents. Chronic callers can and do have legitimate requests of the police. You must question them each time to determine the situation before you dispose of the call.

You should ask specific questions of the chronic caller to learn what the problem is and if it's one the police handle. If the caller does not describe a problem, tell them "That's not handled by the police" and that you have other calls to answer. If the caller describes a problem handled by another government agency, give them the telephone number and ask them to call.

CALLS FROM JUVENILES/ELDERLY

You should be particularly sensitive to calls from children and the elderly. They may initially seem confused as to why they're calling and may not express themselves completely. Never assume that they are merely pranksters or senile. You must ask specific questions to find out why they are calling the police department.

Always obtain a child's name, address and telephone number first. Use their name when talking to them. You may ask them "Is your mother or father there?", but be aware that they may be calling about a problem involving their parents and won't want to give the telephone to them.

You may have to talk to an elderly person for several minutes to obtain sufficient information. Details such as where they live (a resthome, hotel, hospital?), if they are alone, and the location of persons they might mention will give clues to why they are calling.

If you have any doubt as to the welfare of a child or elderly person, complete an appropriate dispatch card--fire, medical or police--explaining the circumstances of the call.

INCOMPLETE TELEPHONE CALLS

On occasion a caller will hang up, be disconnected or simply drop the telephone before giving you all the information you need. This may be due to a medical problem, panic or an accident. Never assume that incomplete calls are pranks or persons reaching a wrong number. From the information you were able to obtain, you must then decide whether an emergency actually exists. If so and the caller was able to give you a location, dispatch normally. If you have no location but do have a telephone number, start the tracing procedures. If the caller hung up, try to call them back to obtain more information.

Calls received on the emergency lines (not 911) often come thru an operator who stays on or monitors the line during the call, and who can give you the caller's telephone number. If you receive a call on a regular emergency number and the caller hangs up, do not hang up. Wait for the operator to come back on the line, then ask for the caller's number.

In all cases, you are required to diligently follow-up on incomplete calls, as follows:

--if no one on the line when you answer, and

+the phone number is displayed on 911, then call back

+the phone number is not displayed, then take no action

--if caller hangs up while talking, then call back

+if no answer, decide based on the information you were able to obtain initially

--if interrupted while talking and you have...

+address, then dispatch normally

+no address, start tracing operation

Remember that a caller may have been interrupted by the very fire or medical problem that caused them to call for assistance. Never assume that the call was malicious or false.

911 CALLS

Upon taking a call on 911, you should immediately scan the video display for the caller's address and telephone number. If no information is displayed, press the RPT ALI button one or twice. If no information appears, check the telephone number display on the transfer box. If you receive the message "RECORD NOT FOUND", the computer does not have address information on file for the listed telephone number.

You should check the bottom of the video screen to see what public safety agencies are listed. If Oaktown is not listed, check the address carefully for the proper city. If the caller is reporting an emergency in another jurisdiction, transfer them to the proper agency.

Whenever the primary 911 answering point is busy or not functioning, the 911 system will route the call to a designated, adjacent agency. If you receive a call and the telephone number on the transfer box is flashing, the call has been automatically routed to Oaktown. You should attempt to transfer the caller to the proper agency. If you cannot, take the information and relay it via the Tacphone.

Lastly, do not rely on the address information displayed on the screen. Always ask the caller their address. The telephone number is electronically derived and is always correct, unless there is a major equipment problem. However, the address information is based on entries made by Pacific Bell and may have been changed or entered in error.

RECAP

  • Answer telephone calls within 3 rings if possible
  • Answer with the appropriate phrase and your dispatcher ID number
  • Listen attentively and ask questions politely
  • Use Mr., Mrs. or Ms. with the caller's name
  • Use "Thank you" and "You're welcome"
  • Don't put the caller on hold for more than 60 seconds at a time
  • When you come back on the line after holding, say, "Thanks for holding"
  • Determine if the call requires a police/fire dispatch, is for another unit or another city agency
  • If a transfer is required, give the caller the extension or number, and say "I'll transfer you"
  • Determine and give the proper advice if no dispatch is required
  • If a dispatch is required, ask all appropriate questions and enter into CAD
  • Obtain full descriptions and locations so that field units will have no unanswered questions
  • Near the end of the call, ask the caller, "Is there anything else I can help you with?"
  • If a dispatch will be made, tell caller, "We'll have an officer come out and speak to you," and give them an approximate ETA
  • Offer your dispatcher ID number without question when asked,
  • Refer callers to your supervisor when asked
  • If an incident is undispatched for more than 30 minutes, call the citizen back with an explanation, ask if service is still required/desired; restate that police/fire will respond

Complaint Taker

The first level of comm center personnel are the complaint dispatchers. Their primary duty is to answer telephone inquiries from the public, take incident information from them, and enter it into CAD. However, they also perform many other duties to assist the police officers and firefighters, such as telephoning citizens, tow companies and utilities.

Complaint dispatchers handle all types of incoming telephone calls--administrative, emergency, police and fire. The following section describes the responsibilities of a complaint dispatcher who is handling a police-related call.

GENERAL DUTIES

The police complaint dispatcher's main duty is to answer incoming telephone calls, record citizen complaints on IBM cards and to forward them to the radio dispatcher. The complaint dispatcher also monitors the radio channels for requests from field officers, listens for alarms received on the comm center board, sorts and routes the dispatch cards, and types the bulletin.

ACCURACY

It is vital to the safety of each officer on the street that you be accurate in your work. The is especially true when taking information from callers reporting crimes and suspects. The suspect description you broadcast or the details of an incident which you write on an incident card could be used by an officer in the field to detain a suspect, search a vehicle or to use deadly force. The consequences of being careless could be disastrous.

When receiving calls it is essential that your listen and hear everything that the person is saying. It takes a bit of practice to listen and write at the same time--and to do both tasks well. Don't make assumptions from the callers statements. Let the statements speak for themselves and then ask questions that clarify the caller's statements. For instance, if a caller says that he just heard several gunshots, don't assume that the noises were gunshots. Question the caller on exactly what he heard and why he thinks they were from a firearm.

Don't let the caller use general words like "harassment," "bothering," "hanging out." Ask them, "I don't know what you mean by harassment. Exactly what is he/she doing?" Narrow down the activity by asking specific questions.

When you record the information on the card, try to express the caller words exactly. You can't and shouldn't try to write the caller's words verbatim. But you should also not make conclusions. For example, if an alarm company telephones with an alarm and tells you "The business should be closed," don't put "Closed" on the alarm card. Write "Co. says the business should be closed."

HANDLING AGENCY

If the caller is reporting an incident which needs to be handled by a police department, you must decide if the Oaktown Police is the proper agency and, if not, what agency does handle it.

First, Oaktown does not usually investigate incidents which occur outside of the city limits. Two exceptions to this rule would be credit card fraud occurring elsewhere involving a Oaktown victim and when a victim is transported to Oaktown after crimes in another jurisdiction.

Second, Oaktown does not investigate incidents on university or transit district property. However, in-progress or urgent situations will be handled jointly with the proper agency.

Next, by agreement with all County police chiefs, missing person reports are handled by the agency in which the missing person lives.

Lastly, if the caller is unsure of the location of the offense, such as lost property, the crime should be reported to the agency where the victim lives.

If you are not sure if the address given by the caller is within Oaktown, check the fire dispatcher's Response Guide for Oaktown's street number range. If the victim knows the crime location, but it's near the city line, dispatch an officer to pinpoint the exact location to determine jurisdiction. Do not argue fine points of jurisdiction over the telephone with the victim.

SCREENING

The task of the dispatcher handling police calls is to obtain the necessary information, route the caller to the proper person or agency, or to dispatch the proper emergency response. At the same time, the dispatcher screens out those calls not appropriately handled by the police department or which are not considered emergencies. To do this, the dispatcher asks a series of questions that elicit the most information in the least amount of time.

Citizens call the police department for many reasons--to report crimes, to ask legal advice, to ask directions, to ask for services provided by other city or private agencies. The dispatcher must know what services the police department provides and which they do not. Further, you must know what group within the department handles each reported situation.

It is often difficult to determine why a person is calling. The first questions you ask should seek to determine if they have a QUESTION or want to TELL you something.

Questions

Questions from citizens should be answered by the person most knowledgeable to answer them. If the question is general, simple AND you know the answer, you may give the citizen the answer. If the question involves specialized knowledge and a bureau and unit is on-duty, direct the caller to that unit. If the question is about a previously reported incident, direct the caller to the original handling officer or the DD bureau which handles such incidents.

A dispatcher is not permitted to give legal advice--giving a caller an opinion on the best course of action involving a legal matter. You must refer callers to an attorney for specific interpretations of the law, advice or opinions. However, you may tell a caller what provisions of the law may apply to an incident and explain police department procedures for a situation.

Information

Callers may report information about previous incidents or new incidents. If the incident has already been reported and a report taken, further information should be directed to the original handling officer or the proper DD bureau. If the incident is new and the incident is one handled by the police, then you will complete an incident card and dispatch a patrol officer to investigate and report it. Incidents not handled by the police are referred to another city or private agency. See the Appendix for a list of city agencies handling citizen problems.

Then, the general form of questioning is as follows:

+ Question? police incident
-by dispatcher
-by handling officer
-by DD bureau
-other agency incident
-refer

+ Information
-previous incident
-handling officer or
-DD bureau
-new incident
-complete incident card
-dispatch patrol officer

Once you've determined the person has a situation requiring a police response, you should be able to decide what that response will be. You can now start asking specific questions to obtain the information necessary to dispatch an officer. Do not let the caller simply give you information. Ask specific questions to obtain only that information that you need.

Non-Emergency

If the caller is reporting a non-emergency situation, you must determine if it is handled by the police department. If it is, you will complete a dispatch cad and forward it to the radio dispatcher. If it is not handled by the police, you will determine what public agency or private company handles the situation and refer the caller to them. When making referrals, you should give the caller the exact telephone number or sufficient information so they may determine the number themselves, for example, from the telephone book. See a list of referral agencies in the Appendix.

Emergencies

When a person telephones the police department to report an emergency, it is the first link in a chain which may ultimately lead to prison for the person responsible. The first call may also be the last call. The person's statements and demeanor may be very significant to the police officer who responds and to a prosecutor standing before a jury trying for a conviction. The dispatcher should be attentive to every word, the caller's demeanor and background noises which may give important clues as to what is happening.

If the caller has an emergency situation, you will complete a dispatch card as detailed below and forward the call to the police or fire radio dispatcher. In cases where another public safety agency has jurisdiction, such as transit district police, university police or the highway patrol, you will transfer the caller or give them the proper telephone number.

In many cases the caller doesn't know what is happening or what to do. They simply know certain facts. In these cases it's up to you to determine if they are reporting a crime or need some assistance. Never let the caller decide if the police or fire department is needed---judge for yourself based on the facts as described by the caller. If the caller doesn't ask for an officer or sounds like they're only asking for advice, and yet the circumstances indicate that an officer should respond, complete a dispatch card and send one.

Take charge of the conversation at the beginning--don't simply listen to what the person is saying. Ask them questions which will quickly obtain the most useful information. While you should not echo everything they say, do repeat the address or location information so there is no misunderstanding. Ask them the following questions:

1) what happened?
2) weapons?
3) when did it occur?
4) where did it happen?
5) suspect description
6) vehicle description
7) direction of travel
8) reporting person (RP) information, including where they are now

Write down everything significant that they are saying--don't rely on your memory. If necessary, tell them to slow down, to take a deep breath and to continue telling their story.

While it is never a requirement that a caller identify themselves in order to request police service, crimes require identifiable witnesses to point out the victim, location and/or suspect. It is important to know who is calling and where they are. Ask the caller for their name. Tell them that the police need a named person to report the crime so that the police department may take direct action--make an arrest, prosecute, etc. Attempt to assure the person that they will not be identified in the field, but never tell them "You won't have to go to court." If they are reporting a crime in progress, ask them to stay where they are so that a police officer may contact them.

Telephone numbers are an important tool for the police. They permit citizens to be located if the officer cannot locate the address, to be recontacted for more information before dispatch and may provide valuable to investigators following up on the case. Always get the caller's telephone number. Ask for their home number in all cases. If they are not at home, ask for the number where they are, too.

Locations are important to the police, as well. A crime's location determines if it occurred in Oaktown and what officer will respond. A precise location also means that an officer will know where go immediately or where the criminal might have fled. When you talk to a caller, find out where the crime occurred, where the caller is now, where the responsible is and where the witnesses are now. And remember to ask if there's an apartment. Many callers don't volunteer that information.

If the person is calling on 911, you will normally have a video display of their telephone number and address. However, never rely on that display for the correct address of the person calling, as telephone company records may not be completely up to date. Confirm the person's address by asking "You live at 1905 Blake?" In cases where a person moves and keeps the same telephone number, the telephone company records may not have been updated and the ALI will show their previous address. Reassignment of numbers also may cause confusion over the actual vs. displayed address.

In all cases, repeat the locations for the caller to verify. "You're at 1444 Stannage, number 3?" and "The people fighting are in the yellow house on the corner?"

Never assume that the incident has been previously reported--make out a card with complete information. Even if the incident has been reported, you may be talking to the only witness who can identify those involved. So always try to obtain the caller's name, address and telephone number for every call that you handle.

LOCATIONS

The first information you should try to obtain for any incident is the location. You cannot enter an incident into CAD until you have entered a valid location, that is, one that CAD recognizes. Information about verifying incident with CAD is contained in the CAD Training Manual.

Never depend upon the 9-1-1 display for the caller's location. Ask every caller for their address. The 9-1-1 database of addresses is sometimes in error or ambiguous. You should verify the 9-1-1 caller's location to eliminate the possibility of using an incorrect location.

For purposes of responding to an emergency, it's vital to obtain the precise location where the incident occurred or is occurring--

  • What's the exact street address or intersection
  • Occuring at a specific location or in the area?
  • What area? Westside, northside, close, far away?
  • Inside or outside?
  • Near what business or building?
  • On the sidewalk, in a driveway, standing in a doorway, etc.?

The ability of the police officers or fire units to go directly to the location of an incident is a critical part of saving lifes and protecting property. You should ask sufficient questions to narrow down the location as precisely as possible.

TYPE OF INCIDENT

The next required piece of information for CAD entry is the type of activity. After hearing the caller's description of what is happening, you should select the closest appropriate CAD activity type code and enter it into CAD. Information about the actual entry process is contained in the CAD Training Manual.

Activity types have been created using two methods--the ten-code (10-53, 10-33, etc.) and the various sections of state law from the Penal Code, Vehicle Code, Health & Safety Code, etc. (10851, 245, etc.).

There are two basic types of activity type codes--the incident is occurring now (highest priority) and the incident occurred previously and the situation requires a report (lower priority). The lower priority codes are suffixed with the letter "R".

For many code sections, there are two activity type codes, one for high priority and one for low priority. The high priority codes appear just as the in the code, such as "345" or "802." The lower priority codes appear as "266R" or "440R".

There are currently over 180 different activity types. You should become familiar with them so you can quickly enter activity type codes into CAD.

DESCRIPTIONS

An important element of police work is complete, accurate descriptions of people, vehicles and places. These descriptions are vital for locating, identifying, assisting and prosecuting the people with which the officers come into contact. The dispatchers are the important first link in obtaining these descriptions from callers who have first-hand experience.

Because descriptions are used so frequently, the form and content has been standardized to make using them easier. Its essential that you use this standard order when obtaining or giving descriptions of people or vehicles

When obtaining descriptions, take into account the circumstances of the incident and ask questions which will obtain the most useful description. For instance, if the suspect is escaping in a vehicle, don't ask for an eye color, color of pants, etc. Instead, concentrate on the vehicle description, race of the suspect and upper clothing/body description---things which could readily be seen when the person is sitting in the vehicle.

People

Consistent descriptions of persons are important, as it simplifies the officers' visualizing suspects. You should always attempt to use the back of the incident card to record descriptions, as follows:

race sex height weight hair eyes shaven clothing (top to bottom)

A person's race is stated either as a code when written or a word when spoken. The acceptable codes and words are as follows:

O...Asian
B...Black
L...Latino
W...White

When asking about a suspect's clothing, start with the colors first and then the type or style of clothing. Generally, descriptions of clothing work from top to bottom--red hat, green shirt, blue pants and black shoes--again, to aid the officers to visualize the suspect.

Once you've finished the physical and clothing descriptions, ask the witness about a hat, glasses, tattoos or was the suspect carrying anything. Sometimes they will remember small things while talking to you just after the crime and will then forget them by the officer arrives.

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Vehicles

Descriptions of vehicles should follow the following format:

  • year
  • color
  • make
  • model
  • license
  • unusual, damage

If the license isn't a state plate, you should make note of that on the dispatch card.

When dealing with autos you should ask exactly where it is--on the street, in a lot, etc., if it's occupied and which way it's facing. These facts will help the responding officers decide on their approach strategy.

Weapons

Never assume that weapons aren't involved because a caller doesn't mention them. Ask "Do you see any weapons?" Rely only upon what the caller sees. If they say a gun is involved, ask them "Do you see a gun?" Determine who has the weapons, where they are placed (in belt, pocket, drawer) and what they are doing with them (waving it, holding it, shooting it). Obtain their full identifcation of the caller for possible contact by an officer.

Don't rely solely upon the word of an anonymous caller to make a report of "man with a gun." However, don't let this prevent you from broadcasting the call. If the caller won't say who they are, ask more specific questions about the gun --what does it look like, is it a handgun or rifle, what color is it, it the person holding it in their hand or is it in a pocket? These answers, besides being helpful if there is a gun, will usually reveal whether the caller actually has seen a weapon.

CRIMES IN PROGRESS

When you receive a report of a crime in progress, it is the start of a very dangerous chain of events. Officers are sent to a unknown situation to deal with persons who may be violent or armed. The dispatcher's primary goal is safety --both for the involved citizens and the responding officers. To do this, the dispatcher must ask specific questions which obtain the necessary information and then accurately relay that information to the responding officers.

Any breakdown in communications during a crime in progress could have disastrous results. For instance, if you do not determine that weapons are involved or fail to relay the getaway car's description or direction, arriving officers may be put into jeopardy. Likewise, if you misunderstand a caller's remarks and tell officers that a weapon is involved, and it is not, innocent citizens could be put in danger.

The incidents which are considered "hot calls" and which should be entered into CAD immediately are:

  • civil disturbance, weapons involved
  • collisions w/fatalities or major injuries
  • high speed pursuit
  • kidnap/hostage situation
  • murder or assault with a deadly weapon, in progress
  • officer needs help
  • other life-threatening situations
  • rape, in progress
  • residential/commercial burglary, in progress
  • robbery, in progress - shots fired just prior

A caller reporting a crime in progress shall be kept on the line until officers arrive. During this time, additional information should be obtained on the location, description of the responsibles and their direction of flight. The information should be entered into CAD as you obtain it from the caller. If the suspect has left the scene, you may calm the caller and direct them to lock the door, stay inside, etc. When an officer makes contact with the caller, tell them to hang up and talk to the officer.

Callers are often in fear of their lives and very excited. Your initial task is to quickly obtain the location and basic information about the incident, broadcast the information on radio channel one and keep the caller on the line until the police arrive.

Ask the caller their address, even if they call on 911 and an address is displayed. Ask them what is happening. Ask them how many persons are involved and where they are now. Tell them "Stay on the line, don't hang up." Do not put the caller on hold, but simply enter the information into CAD.

Return to the caller and tell them "Officers are on the way, but I want you to stay on the phone with me while they are responding. Don't hang up."

After the initial questions, you can then ask the caller for a more complete description, any weapons, direction of flight, vehicles seen, etc. as detailed in earlier sections of this manual.

Continue to ask the caller for more information, including where the responsible(s) are now, what they are doing, if there are any weapons involved, how may persons and their descriptions. Again, enter the information into CAD while keeping the caller on the line. Repeat this process until you have broadcast everything the caller knows.

Each time you question the caller, you obtain more specific information that narrows down the nature of the incident and the involved persons. Continue to talk to the person until the police arrive or take control of the incident.

TELEPHONE REPORTS

Not all incidents handled by the police require that an officer take the report in person. In cases where an in-person report is not required by police and the caller is in another city or requests a telephone report, the dispatcher should fill in the "NOW AT" space with current telephone number and indicate "10-21 REPORT" on the card conspicuously.

By Caller Request

If the caller requests only telephone contact by an officer, you should evaluate the nature of the incident and advise the caller accordingly. If the incident is clearly one where personal contact is necessary, tell the caller "We need to have an officer contact you in person to take a report." If the incident doesn't appear to require personal contact, take the caller's telephone number and tell them "An officer will call you."

In some cases the officer who telephones the victim may not be able to take the report via phone. However, you should leave that decision to the officer. You should honor the caller's request for telephone contact and take the information.

By The Field Officer

In many cases, it is advantageous for an officer to talk to a crime victim in person in order to assess the person's demeanor, truthfullness, to examine or collect evidence or to interview other witnesses. However, when there are no suspects, no evidence to collect or other persons involved, a field officer may choose to make the report by telephone. Usually the telephone dispatcher will not be aware of this, as the officer will inform the radio dispatcher upon being dispatched.

By A Report Officer

The police department has a program of "Differential Police Response", during which an officer will be assigned to take certain reports via telephone. The officer will work from the comm center and handle types of reports specifically designated for the unit to handle. You will receive a bulletin detailing which reports the officer may handle and which must be handled by a patrol officer.

CALL DISPOSITIONS

After hearing the caller's situation, you must determine how to handle it. Perhaps you will refer them to another police or city department. Perhaps it is a civil problem and you'll suggest they consult an attorney. Or you may decide that the police can help and you'll forward an incident card to the radio dispatcher.

In every case, the caller should be certain of what response, if any, the police are going to make. If the situation is not handled by the police, inform the caller and tell them who does handle it and give them the telephone number if you know it. If the situation is handled by another city department, give them the extension number and attempt to transfer them, such as:

"That's something handled by Animal Control. Hold on while I transfer you to that number."

If the situation is handled by the police, tell them "We'll send an officer out out to talk with you (and take a report)."

If the situation is handled by another police agency, give the caller the number and ask them to call. If the caller is reporting an emergency, you may either transfer them (on 911 only) or take the information and relay it to the appropriate agency. Do not give emergency callers another agency's telephone number and to call themselves--transfer them on 911 or relay the information yourself.

If a caller asks when the officer will respond, you should tell them only "As soon as an officer is available" and give them your most reasonable estimate of the response time. Then tell them, "However, this may change depending on what else is happening in the city." Never tell the caller "An officer will be there in 5 minutes." Too many events can occur which will change that estimate. A citizen's satisfaction with response times is related less to the actual time, than it is to the time estimated by the dispatcher. Short estimates will disappoint the caller and cause them to telephone every 15 minutes for a reason why an officer hasn't arrived.

If the caller wants to know why the response time is so indefinite, explain that several calls are pending, that priorities are constantly changing and emergency calls are dispatched first. In most cases, citizens will understand the delay if it's explained to them and they won't mind waiting.

If they decide that they want to postpone police service, because they cannot wait or that they want to think about it, do not complete an incident card. Ask the caller to re-call the police department when they return or decide to file a police report. Do not take a "reservation" for an officer to respond later. Make sure the caller realizes that they must initiate another call to obtain service. If the caller postpones service because they cannot wait for an officer now, explain that a delay is common and they should call back when they are going to be at one location for an hour or more.

MONITORING THE RADIO

While taking telephone calls, the dispatcher should also be monitoring the radio --at least channel 1, and perhaps channels 1 and 2. You should be alert to officers calling to order tows, to call RP's or alarm companies or to look up information in one of the comm center files.

HANDLING SPECIFIC CALLS

It's important to obtain complete and proper information and put it on the incident card so that the radio dispatcher may properly prioritize the call and give the responding officers complete information. If information is left out, it may mean a critical delay in locating the victim, losing the suspects or providing timely service to a citizen. The following sections summarize the more important pieces of information to obtain for different types of incidents and the necessary actions of the complaint dispatcher.

In most cases the dispatcher will note the information on a card and forward it to the radio dispatcher. Incidents which are considered "hot calls" are broadcast immediately on channel one, as detailed above.

Alarms

Alarms may be reported by private companies or citizens, or they may come directly to the comm center alarm panels. These alarms may report a break-in (459) or a hold-up (211). All reports of alarms go on a pink alarm card.

If an alarm is reported by a PRIVATE COMPANY, the dispatcher should obtain:

  • name of the alarm company
  • address of the alarm
  • name of the business or occupants
  • type of alarm or specific area covered
  • whether 211 or 459
  • whether audible or silent
  • alarm company call-back telephone number if not a local company

All panic or robbery alarms are considered hot calls.

If an alarm is received on the police alarm board, the following should be done:

  • Dispatcher nearest the alarm board notes the module number and the alarm condition, either TROUBLE (black) or ALARM (red), and silences the alarm
  • Dispatcher #2 stamps card and fills in info as read from alarm module by #1, forwards to radio dispatcher
  • Dispatcher #1 or #2 looks up the premises' telephone number, address, business name and type of alarm, calls premises
  • 211 alarms from the alarm board are considered hot calls

Receiving an alarm and dispatching it quickly is a team effort. If two or more dispatchers are free to handle the incoming alarm, it can be received, relayed to the patrol officers while the call is being placed to the premises.

When calling the premises, ask the person who answers "Hello. Is there a problem there?" If they sound puzzled, tell them "This is the police department." Ask them not to put you on HOLD while they determine if there is a problem. If they report a crime in progress or just prior, immediately broadcast the information to the responding units. Then return to the caller and obtain specific details.

If the person reports that there is no problem, obtain the person's name and ask them to step outside to talk to the officer who will respond to verify that the alarm was accidental.

All alarms received on the jail alarm board are considered hot calls. If you receive a personnel alarm from the jail, the complaint dispatchers should immediately do the following:

  • Dispatcher nearest the board notes the location, male or female jail, where the alarm was activated
  • Other dispatcher immediately broadcasts alarm information on the intercom all-call to officers in building
  • Any dispatcher broadcasts alarm information on radio channel 1. If no officers are in the Hall of Justice, the radio dispatcher should assign officers in the field to the call.
  • Any dispatcher takes jail keys stored at position #1 to north door of the comm center, where a passing officer will take them into the jail
  • The keys should be returned to the comm center after the incident

If an audible alarm is reported by a citizen, the dispatcher should obtain:

  • the name, address and telephone of the caller
  • the specific location of the alarm sound
  • the name of the business or occupants
  • if the caller sees any activity at the premises

If the citizen sees any suspicious activity, it's considered a hot call.

By ordinance, premises with more than six false alarms within 90 days may be fined and police response denied. After receiving an alarm via the alarm board, a citizen or an alarm company, always check the "no response" list for the address. In all cases, complete an alarm card and mark it "NO RESPONSE" at the bottom.

If the alarm was via the alarm board, telephone the premises to determine if the alarm is genuine. If not, inform them that an officer is not responding and file the card. If the alarm is via an alarm company, inform the company that the police are not responding and that they should notify the premises owner.

Officer Needs Help

Occasionally a citizen will call and say that an officer needs help or assistance. You should immediately determine the location and if the an officer is asking a citizen to call for help or the citizen is only observing an incident. All such incidents are considered hot calls.

If the officer requested that the citizen call the police, you should immediately broadcast "All units, officer requests 11-98, location." The radio dispatcher will then take over co-ordination of responding officers. If the citizen is on-viewing an officer-involved fight or other disturbance, you should broadcast "All units, 11-99, location." The radio dispatcher will then attempt to identify the officer, obtain a status check from him/her and will co-ordinate further response.

Assault

Reports of assaults may be received from many sources--such as passersby on the street or by family partners from a house. The caller's relationship to the assault and the location may give you clues to the possible nature of the assault and its priority.

Callers reporting fights in domestic situations should be questioned as to who is fighting, how they are fighting and where the people are now. Many times callers will say "They're fighting" when they really mean that the people are arguing.

The presence of weapons, number of persons involved and possible injuries are very important elements when questioning callers. Descriptions of the persons involved and their direction of flight should be obtained to assist the officers in locating the combatants or the suspect fleeing the scene.

All assaults in progress, with or without weapons, are considered hot calls.

Notifications

Citizens may call asking that we go to a Oaktown location to provide notification of an urgent or emergency situation. Generally, the police will provide this service, altho on a non-priority basis.

Obtain the caller's complete name, address and telephone number, the Oaktown person's complete information, including telephone number. Tell the caller that we will tell the person to telephone, but that we generally won't provide a more detailed message, such as "There's been a death" or "Your grandfather has died." Explaint to the caller that the notification may take up to two hours, depending on other pending incidents. If the caller wants to know the results of the notifcation, tell them that the police will not call them, but they should call back within an hour.

Prowler

Callers reporting noises or persons in their yard may only hear or see something. Often they cannot directly attribute the noise/figure with a person. Question the caller to determine the exact nature of the noise (scratching, pounding, rattling, etc.) and the exact location, either the window, door, area or side of the house. If a person a prowler is entering or has entered the building, handle as a 459 PC.

  • name, address, telephone
  • nature and location of noise, sight
  • location of RP

All prowlers in progress or just prior are considered hot calls.

Suspicious Circumstances

Citizens report all types of events to the police when they think that something illegal is going on. Usually the event is innocent, but only personal evaluation by a police officer can determine this is so. Callers who say "I see a suspicious person/car/etc." should be questioned as to WHY they feel it is suspicious. A good description and location is necessary for the responding officers to evaluate the danger of the situation and to locate the suspicious persons/cars, etc.

  • name, address, telephone, location
  • location of suspicious event
  • why it is suspicious
  • description of person, car, house, etc.

Try to avoid simply putting "sus circ" on the card without an explanation of why it's suspicious. Explain the suspicious activity on the card as described by the caller. Write down what the caller saw and let the field officers draw their own conclusions.

Loud Reports

Citizens hearing loud reports often say they hear "gunshots." Question the caller as to the location - inside/outside, in a building or on the street--and why they think it was a gunshot. Ask them if they see anything on the street -vehicles or persons - and their description. Finally, ask them how many reports they heard, if in groups and if they were in quick succession.

Do not use the term "gunshots" or "shots fired" either on the card or on the radio. The only term for a citizen hearing loud, sharp noises is "loud reports."

Loud report(s) accompanied by persons down or other suspicious circumstances are be considered a hot call. Try to obtain additional suspect information and the witness' identity.

Bomb Threat

If you receive a call from someone who warns of a planted bomb, you should attempt to obtain details on the bomb from the caller, as follows:

  • Where is the bomb?
  • What does the bomb look like?
  • When will the bomb go off?
  • Why did you place the bomb?

In some cases the caller will immediately hang up after calling. Other times the caller may answer you questions. If the caller stays on the line, ask them questions about their motivation and specifically about the bomb's appearance and structure. Make short notes about the caller's race, sex, any accents or speech peculiarities. Note any background noises or identifiable sounds.

You should immediately notify your supervisor after handling a bomb threat call so that the incident will receive priority treatment and that the necessary persons are notified.

Burglary

Callers reporting a burglary often use the term "robbery" instead. You should question callers carefully to determine what exactly happened--was property taken from them or was their home or auto entered?

Next, you should determine when the crime occurred. Callers often consider that they were "just burglarized" when, in fact, they just discovered the crime. If the crime is occurring or just occurred it's considered a hot call. If the crime occurred much earlier, take complete information for a normal dispatch.

While it's not required, you may ask the caller the means of entry and what was taken in the burglary, then include that on the dispatch card. This will make a later disposition easier for the radio dispatcher.

Suspected Child Abuse

Occurrences of suspected child abuse may be reported many ways--by next door neighbors who want to remain anonymous, by county agencies, by schools or by the police department Juvenile Bureau.

In all cases, obtain sufficient location information so that responding units may identify the residence in question. Ask if the caller knows the names and ages of those involved. Ask exactly what the caller hears or sees and how long they have observed the activity. Even with anonymous callers, this information can be important to justifying police involvement.

HAZMAT Incident

The Fire Department is in charge of all incidents involving hazardous materials (HAZMAT) within the city. The police department responds to assist with traffic and crowd control, and possible evacuation.

Callers reporting a HAZMAT or suspect material should be questioned as detailed in the Fire Telephone Dispatcher section. If the suspect material is on a roadway or a confirmed HAZMAT situation is reported, a police incident card should be completed.

Domestic Disturbance

According to FBI statistics on officer deaths, the most dangerous incident is the "domestic disturbance." Disputes involving couples or families can range from simple disagreements, to loud arguments, to out-and-out fights involving weapons.

Reports of 415f's may come from neighbors who hear the disturbance or from the involved parties. In the former case, the caller usually wants to remain anonymous, while in the latter the caller almost always identifies themselves.

If the caller is a neighbor, you should ask them what they see and hear, if they know the persons' names and if they know if weapons are involved. Assure the caller that you don't need their identity, but that you still want to obtain complete information.

If the caller is involved, obtain the names of those involved, in case the officers are familiar with them. Don't ask about the source of the disturbance, because the caller may then begin a lengthy explanation of their problems. Just ask for names, the address, the telephone number, if weapons are involved and what exactly what the invovled persons are doing now--sitting down, throwing things, waving a knife, etc.?

Noise Complaint

Perhaps the most common complaint next to parking problems, the noise complaint it the result of living in an urban environment. Callers often do not want to identify themselves and are vague about the nature or location of the noise.

There are two legal remedies to noise complaints, Penal Code section 415 and Municipal Code sections on noise abatement. In most cases, however, patrol officers can quiet noise without resorting to either section. Nevertheless, you should be familiar with both laws and their specific prohibitions

Noise from barking dogs is handled by the police. An officer will respond to the location and try to talk to the reporting party and the owner of the dog. If the problem is chronic, the officer will write a report which is forwarded to the city's Animal Control office for follow-up.

  • name, address, telephone
  • location of noise, inside/outside, street or yard, apartment or room
  • nature of noise, music, loud talking (argument?), repair work, construction, vehicle
  • how long?

Vehicle Accidents

Accidents are a common occurrence in Oaktown, especially during rush-hour or rainy weather. When a caller reports an accident involving a vehicle, bicycle or pedestrian, you should determine the following:

  • location
  • is anyone injured?
  • --are all persons still at the scene?
  • if not, what are the descriptions of the vehicles that left, direction?

Hit-and-run accidents which just occurred are considered hot calls.

As a matter of policy, Oaktown investigates accidents according to the following

  • Non-injury accidents: if the vehicles are still at the scene
  • Injury accidents: within 24 hours of the accident

Note that an officer does not take a report if both parties have completely left the scene and are now at home, another city, etc. An officer will take a report if both parties are still at the scene but have simply moved their cars out of traffic, to the next intersection, etc.

If a caller asks if he should have an officer take a report, tell them the legal requirements for reporting and "If you'd like us to take a report, we'll send an officer out." Do not suggest that the persons exchange information and report it to their insurance companies--let the caller decide what they want to do based on information you give him/her.

Dead Body

If a caller reports a dead body, you should never assume that the person is dead. If there is any doubt, immediately dispatch the fire department. Only when the caller reports a gross injury or a decomposed body washed up on the shoreline may you presume that the person is dead.

In most cases, the caller is a relative, neighbor or passerby and the death is from natural causes. In a few cases of homicide, what the caller says on the telephone may have significance in later investigations. You should identify the caller completely and determine the circumstances of their finding the body. Ask them their relationship to the person and when they found the body. Ask them to leave the scene and preserve it until the police arrive.

Civil Advice

In general, the police department does not handle civil law investigations--it handles only violations of criminal law. However, you will receive many questions about civil matters and sometimes it's not easy to determine where civil law ends and criminal law begins.

You may not give legal advice on the telephone, civil or criminal. However, you may give callers information on the resources available to them to handle civil matters, such as an attorney, small claims court, civil court and the various government agencies handling civil matters.

Most civil matters which the police do handle also involve a potential disturbance of the peace, such as:

  • landlord-tenant disputes; especially tenant lockout, seizure of tenant property, removal of doors, turning off utilities, landlord trespass
  • repossessions
  • evictions; handled only by county sheriff

You should advise the caller that the police do not take reports of civil matters, to be used later by the caller in a court proceeding. Advise them that the police can only investigate any associated criminal matters, such as:

  • vandalism
  • violation of court order
  • trespassing
  • theft
  • assault or battery

When taking information from persons requesting a civil standby, there may be three different addresses:

  • home address of the caller
  • -ocation where they will meet officer
  • address where the standby is needed

Lost/Found Property

There is no requirement that a person losing property make a police report, but it may be done to facilitate returning it or as an insurance requirement. Callers reporting lost property should be asked if they want an officer to contact them to take a report. Explain that you cannot simply take the information on the property. Obtain the person's complete information so they may be contacted in person or by telephone.

If a caller reports finding property, obtain their full information and a description of the property. Determine where and when the property was recovered and under what circumstances, for example, simply found, a person threw it from an auto, someone left it in their front yard, etc. This information should be put on the card for the radio dispatcher, for the incident may connect to something currently occurring.

Fire Investigation

All fires are investigated jointly by the fire and police departments. If a caller reports a fire, then the appropriate fire apparatus should be sent. If the arriving fire units request a fire investigation, then a police incident should be generated and dispatched.

If a caller reports an extinguished fire of suspicious origin, a police and fire incident should be generated. You should indicate on the fire card "Extinguished, non-emergency." Indicate on the police card that the fire department is responding.

Disturbing Telephone Calls

Citizens reporting annoying, obscene or threatening telephone calls should be asked if they know the caller or why they are receiving the calls. They should be asked if they want an officer to contact them and take a report of the calls or if they simply want advice.

If the citizen wants a report, obtain the information and complete an incident card. If the citizen wants advice and the annoying caller is unknown, give them the following suggestions, designed to minimize inconvenience to the citizen:

  • don't answer the telephone for 1-3 days
  • answer only during certain hours
  • arrange a special ring signal for important callers
  • use an answering machine for several days to screen calls while at home
  • change the telephone number

Advise them that tracing a call or tapping a telephone line, done by the telephone company only at the request of the police, is done only in special cases where the personal threat to the citizen is very great.

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Parking Problems

Perhaps the most common complaints received at the police department pertain to parking problems. Oaktown has some of the most congested streets in the area. Street parking spaces are difficult to find and off-street parking rents for monthly rates up to $50 per month. Renters are very protective about their space and very knowledgeable about their rights. Dispatchers should be sensitive to callers with parking problems because, to the caller, the problem represents lost time and money, and inconvenience.

Complaints of cars illegally parked on private property or blocking a driveway must have a named reporting person in order to tow, as liability for towing is the responsibility of the victim. If the tow is later found to be improper, say if the owner was actually a tenant authorized to park in the lot, then the person requesting the tow would be civilly liable for the amount of the tow. Other problems (double-parked, fire hydrant, crosswalk, handicapped space) do not require a named complainant. Persons reporting parking meter violations should be told that these violations are handled usually by Parking Enforcement personnel.

Because stolen vehicles are often dumped in illegal parking spaces or simply abandoned, every such vehicle should be checked for stolen by running an SQ on the terminal in the comm center. If you are unable to contact Telecomm, the computers are down, etc., circle but don't check the box and the handling officer will then check it later.

Several state laws and city ordinances are directed to the proper parking of vehicles on the streets and in private parking lots. To efficiently handle these, the dispatcher should ask the following:

  • the caller's name, address and telephone
  • the exact location of the vehicle; address, space number, driveway, etc.
  • the description of the vehicle, including make, color, license
  • the reason the caller wants the vehicle cited and/or towed
  • if the car is to be towed, will the caller be available to point out the vehicle to the officer

Questions pertaining to the city's preferential parking ordinance should be directed to the city's Finance Department, 881-6470, where the appropriate stickers are issued to residents of the affected area.

Trespassing Vehicle

It is illegally for persons to park their vehicles on private property without permission if the property is posted to that effect. However, the police department does not handle citing or towing cars from private property, including apartment house garages, in driveways, etc. The property owner can have the vehicle towed, simply by telephoning a tow company.

Blocking Driveway

It is illegal to park on the street blocking a driveway. The car may be cited or towed from the street. A named complainant is required to personally point out the vehicle IF a tow is requested.

Blocking Sidewalk

Parking in driveway so as to block city sidewalk; the vehicle must be within the driveway and blocking the line of the city sidewalk.

Abandoned on Street

It is illegal to leave a vehicle parked on any street which has not moved within 72 hours. A named complainant is required to mark the vehicle make a report. After 72 hours have elapsed, an officer will re-check the vehicle to see if it has been moved. If not, the vehicle is cited and towed.

  • name, address, telephone
  • location of vehicle
  • how long there
  • vehicle description; year, make, model, color, license

Double-Parked in Street

It is illegal to park a car on a street so as to block the traffic lane. The vehicle may be cited and towed. No name complainant is required for any action.

Public Information

You may give out to the public or press only that information which is contained in a departmental Press Release. Further statements shall be referred to your supervisor or the police department's Press Officer at 644-6684.

Tows

The City of Oaktown contracts with three towing companies to remove those vehicles cited for towable offenses. A log of all towed autos is kept in the Comm Center and all vehicles towed are entered in the state AUTO-STATIS computer system. Because towing a vehicle is really confiscating the property of a person, the procedures are very specific and must be followed in each case.

If a citizen calls on 888-1111 or another number inquiring if a vehicle has been towed, try to determine the license number or address of the vehicle and when the vehicle was towed. Check the comm center tow log for an entry. If you find it, give the caller the telephone number of the towing company. If you do not find it but have the license number, you can run a computer inquiry and give them the license plate to determine if it's been towed and by whom. If you cannot find an entry and the caller does not know the license plate, tell them that you must have that information in order to determine if the car has been towed.

Other police agencies within Oaktown also tow vehicles, including university police and transit district police. Ask the caller exactly where the car was parked and then determine if area is university or transit property. If so, direct the caller to the proper agency.

Vehicles towed for certain offenses cannot be released to the owner until authorized by the police, as follows:

  • outstanding tickets proof of payment of all outstanding tickets, front counter
  • unregistered proof of vehicle registration, front counter
  • stolen vehicle by Auto Theft, Detective Division during office hours, front counter at other times
  • other crimes...DD or the Patrol officer handling the case

If the citizen doesn't want to pay the ticket associated with a towed vehicle, but would rather take the matter to court, explain to them that they must retrieve the vehicle and then--

1) Go to Parking Violations, post bail and set a court date to see the Traffic Commissioner
2) During the court hearing, explain the circumstances why the ticket should be dismissed
3) If the commissioner dismisses the case, the bail and cost of tow/storage will be returned to the citizen

If an officer cites a vehicle for a tow, he/she will contact the dispatcher on channel 2 to request a tow. Display the incident information and make sure the necessary information has been entered--make and color of vehicle, license plate, violation and exact location.

To order a tow, look on the tow log and determine which of the three companies is next in line to respond. Enter all the information onto the tow log and then enter the tow company name in the comments of the CAD incident. Telephone the tow company and give them the information on the log. If necessary, ask them how long it will take for them to respond. If the officer has requested an "expedite" tow, tell the tow company.

It's important to keep the tow requests even between all three companies. If a company refuses a request or cannot respond, mark the date and time and indicate the situation on the tow log, then move on to the next company. If one company tows two vehicles in a row, simply skip them on the next rotation to catch up. Likewise, if one company falls behind, call them twice on the next rotation.

If an officer requests a "non-pref", or no preference tow, check the tow log for the next-up towing company. Call that company and give them the information but do not mark them on the tow log. Citizen requests for tows do not count as a police tow.

If an officer relays a citizen's request for a specific tow company, call the company and give them the information. In most cases, these requests are for AAA or National Auto Club.

Tows for city vehicles are handled either by the Corporation Yard, during weekday office hours, or Fred's Towing during other hours. However, always check with the Corp Yard, for the availability of a mechanic to respond before requesting a tow from Fred's. In most cases, the Corp Yard will want to know the nature of the problem and the officer's vehicle number.

Missing Persons

There are several policies that you must consider when taking calls reporting missing persons. First, there is no policy which requires a citizen to wait 24 hours before reporting a missing person. Some departments have such a policy which applies to all age groups and circumstances. Oaktown's policy is to consider each case individually.

Second, jurisdiction of missing persons belongs to the police agency where the missing person resides. Callers reporting missing persons who work in Oaktown or have some other Oaktown connection, but who live in another city, shall be referred to the resident agency. Assure the caller that, upon request of the other agency, Oaktown will assist with the investigation, but that primary responsibility rests with the outside agency. After explaining this, you should take a description of the person and forward it to the radio dispatcher for an information broadcast.

Some callers simply want to know if a person has been arrested or involved in an accident. You may give them the telephone numbers of Oaktown Hospital so they may check the emergency rooms. You may also transfer them to the Service Division so they may inquire if the person has been arrested.

If a caller wants to report a person missing, it's not up to the dispatcher to decide if the person is actually missing. Simply determine the facts regarding age and residence of the missing person, where they were last seen and any other pertinent circumstances. Tell the caller that an officer will contact them.

Callers reporting missing juveniles should be questioned about the circumstances of the disappearance to determine if the child has run away or should be considered missing. A four year-old child who disappears from a fenced backyard might be considered missing, while a 16 year-old who left the house after a argument might be considered runaway.

Welfare Check

Citizens may call to request that an officer check on the welfare of someone residing in Oaktown. They may fear a medical or criminal problem, or the person's telephone may just be busy. You should question such callers carefully and fully to determine why they believe something is wrong.

Obtain full name, address and telephone information for both parties. Ask the victims's age and any prior medical history. Question the caller on what facts lead them to believe that something is wrong. Your questioning should narrow down the priority of the incident, not just whether the police should respond or not.

Enter the incident so the circumstances are clear enough that the radio dispatcher may properly determine the incident's priority.

Extra Surveillance

While it's impossible to maintain surveillance on every unoccupied house or business in Oaktown, the comm center does take requests for extra surveillance from citizens. Callers making such requests should be asked the location, the reason for the surveillance, the times involved and who might have access to the premises during their absence. Advise the caller that you will pass the information along to the officer assigned to that beat. Create a CAD incident with the information.

Messages for Officers

If a citizen calls for an officer, first determine if the officer is currently working. If so, and the officer works in an office assignment, transfer the caller to the officer. Officers' home telephone numbers or addresses are never given out to citizens.

If the officer works patrol, you'll need to know where the officer is. Check the status board to see if he/she is in-service. If so, call the officer on channel 1, "102, holding a phone call." The officer should then tell you where to transfer the call or for you to take a message. If the officer is "10-7," explain to the caller that the officer is "not available to a telephone" and offer to take a message. If they question further, explain that patrol officers do not have office hours or a desk where they may be reached and that the easiest way to contact an officer is by leaving a message. Once you have taken a message, route it to the radio dispatcher, who will give it to the officer on the radio at the earliest opportunity.

If the officer is not on-duty, offer to take a message and route it to the officer's RMS mail box. If the caller indicates an urgency to the call, ask questions to determine who else in the department might help. In some cases callers have questions about previously reported crimes which could be answered by DD personnel.

It is policy that the home telephone numbers of police officers, judges, deputy district attorneys and others involved in law enforcement not be given out over the radio. If you recognize the person calling as an officer or the person indicates they are in law enforcement and that they are home, conspicuously state that in the mail message so that the radio dispatcher will not broadcast the information on the radio.

ETA's

It is common for persons who have already placed a call for service to call again, asking when the officer will arrive. If time permits, you may put the caller on hold and inquire of the radio dispatcher when the call will be dispatched. During busy periods, simply tell the caller that the incident is awaiting dispatch and you cannot determine how long it will be.

In either case, do not guess at an ETA and then give the caller a definite ETA. If you are not sure how long it will take, tell the caller that. If you're able to determine from the radio dispatcher that the call will be definitely dispatched next, you may give the caller a more definite ETA.

If the caller further questions the delay, explain that the police have to prioritize incidents and that many other things are going on in the city. Tell them that it's difficult to give ETA's because of the rapidly changing nature of events in the city.

In no case should you tell a citizen that "we don't have enough officers to handled calls like this" or make any reference to budget cutbacks or personnel shortages. You may, however, explain that there are very many calls for service and that you will dispatch an officer as soon as one is available.

Cancellations

Many times citizens will call back to say that they no longer need police service. When this occurs, it's important to determine the nature of the original call and that the person calling is the same as the person who called.

During domestic disputes, it's common for one person to want the police and for the other person to not want them. Therefore, you may not accept a cancellation of a call for a 415f from a person other than the one who originally called. Even then, you should be alert to the caller's demeanor, in case they are in distress.

Cancellation of response to alarms may come only from the alarm company who transmitted the alarm. You may not accept cancellations from employees or others at the scene of the alarm. This prevents criminals from breaking in and then simply telephoning the police department to cancel the alarm.

For all cancellations, display the original incident, confirm it's the same location and incident mentioned by the caller. Then enter comments to indicate who cancelled the call and why. Update the incident so the radio dispatcher will be alerted that the incident has been updated.

If convenient, verbally tell the radio dispatcher that the incident has been cancelled.

Alarm ETA's

After alarm companies make their initial report of a burglary or holdup alarm, they will call back to give us an ETA for a responsible person. When they call, display the original CAD incident and add the ETA information to the comments.

Officer Complaints

If a citizen calls wishing to file a complaint against any Police Department employee, you should refer them to the Internal Affairs Bureau's telephone number and advise them to call 8:00a.m. to 5:00p.m. on a weekday. If the caller insists on speaking to a supervisor immediately, you should notify a sergeant on the same shift as the involved officer. The sergeant may have you transfer the call or take a message.

If a citizen wants to complain about a comm center dispatcher, immediately notify your supervisor, who will handle the complaint.

Person Down

Callers often report that "a man is lying on the sidewalk" but don't know if the person requires medical aid. Sometimes the circumstances of the incident will provide a clue and you will dispatch the fire department immediately. However, if the caller does not indicate that the person is in distress, that nothing has just occurred to the person, you may decide to create a incident so a police officer can investigate.

You should remember that, depending on other calls, police dispatch of the call could be delayed and that the fire department might be a more appropriate, immediate response. However, if the caller did not indicate a medical problem, do not send the fire department simply to get someone there quickly.

Callers reporting persons down should be asked the exact location, if on the sidewalk, in the street, in a yard, etc., the description of the person, if they talked to the person and any observable symptoms. This information will help the radio dispatcher properly prioritize the call.

Information Broadcasts

Telecomm, other police departments or officers may request that a "Be On the Lookout" (BOL) to all units. When they contact you, create a CAD incident, classify it as INFO and enter all the details.

For all broadcasts, you must determine why the person or vehicle is wanted and what action to take if the person/vehicle is found, including arrest, stop and ID, info only, etc. As always, complete descriptions should be obtained for all vehicles and persons mentioned. The time and location of all offenses mentioned should be obtained, too.

Trespassing

When a caller reports that someone is trespassing on their property, you must quickly determine if the trespasser is a burglar or simply someone looking for a place to sleep. Sometimes the caller will be able to give you a sense of the situation. If the caller tells you that they see the person(s) in the yard and that it is a common occurrance, that he/she recognizes the persons, that they have sleeping gear, etc., you may decide that they are trespassers. If the caller is very excited, says that the person(s) are inside or attempting to break in, you should treat the incident as a prowler call (10-70) or burglary (459) as described above.

Callers reporting 602L's should be asked the number of persons involved, their exact location and their description. You should also ask the caller what they would like the police to do--arrest them or move them along.

Stolen Vehicles

Callers reporting stolen vehicles usually know only one thing--they can't find their vehicle. Most times, however, the vehicle isn't stolen, it's just been towed, repossessed or misplaced. It's up to the dispatcher to question the caller to determine if the vehicle is actually stolen.

You should ask callers several basic questions to narrow down the location of the vehicle:

  • Where did you park it? Are you sure?
  • Does anyone else have the keys? Could they have taken it?
  • Do you own it? Could it have been repossessed?
  • Do you want to make a police report of this?
  • Are you in Oaktown, because an officer must make personal contact?

Obtain complete information on the owner and the vehicle, including year make, model, color and license number. If the caller doesn't know the license number, ask them to determine that while the officer is responding.

After recording all the information, you should check the following records to determine that the car was not towed or legally taken:

  • comm center tow log
  • SQ on the computer terminal

Note that if a known person takes a vehicle without permission, or with permission and is overdue, the vehicle may not be considered stolen. Instead the violation is 801(b) P.C., "joyriding". If there is an indication that joyriding is involved, note that in the comments of the incident.

Stolen Vehicle Recovery

In most cases stolen vehicles are recovered without the involvement of the complaint dispatcher. However, sometimes callers will report that they have found their own or someone else's stolen vehicle. When this occurs, obtain complete information on the caller so that he/she may be interviewed by the handling officer. If the caller refuses to identify themselves, try to determine how long the vehicle has been parked there and if anyone was seen driving it. Obtain complete information on the vehicle.

ABANDONED AUTO FOLLOW-UPS

Officers who are assigned to mark abandoned autos are required to follow-up on them four days later. If an officer finds that a marked vehicle has not moved, he/she will radio the dispatcher on channel 2 and request a tow.

The officer will give you the original CAD sequence number. Display that incident, and confirm that it's the same vehicle and location being reported by the officer. The officer will give you the mileage--enter it into the comments section of the incident.

After you have all the information, call one of the tow companies to remove the vehicle. See TOWS.

Tip Line

In co-operation with Crime Prevention, the comm center has installed a special telephone number for anonymous crime tips. Callers on this line are not required to identify themselves to obtain police service, but may do so if they wish.

If a caller is reporting a current offense or incident, obtain as much information as possible, create a CAD incident, classify it as "DRUGS", "SUSPER" or whatever is appropriate. In the "RP" space, enter "Tip Line."

Other City Agencies

Citizens may call the police department for service when they are unable to reach other city agencies. The problems they report may include street lights or traffic signals not operating, backed up sewers, loose dogs, fallen trees, flooded streets or hazards on the streets or sidewalks.

If a citizen calls during the week, refer them to the proper city agency. After 1700 on weekdays, and on weekends and holidays, you should first determine if the situation is an emergency or urgent problem. If so, you may create a fire or police incident for their response. If the problem is non-urgent, you should give the citizen the city's answering service telephone number, 888-0001, and ask them to call.

The following city agencies are responsible where indicated:

  • Streets and Sanitation sewers, streets, garbage pickup
  • Electrical traffic signals, street lights
  • Radio shop fire and police radio equipment
  • Building Maintenance city buildings, repair and maintenance
  • Equipment Maintenance city vehicles, repair and maintenance
  • Parks & Marina all problems in city parks and the marina all problems involving city trees
  • Health all fires involving foodstuffs (restaurants, grocery stores, etc.) assists with HAZMAT incidents Community noise ordinance
  • Animal Control loose animals, trap lending, dogbite follow-ups
  • Parking Violations issues most parking tickets, administers payments and court dates
  • Finance issues neighborhood parking stickers

Request for Officers' Telephone Numbers

By policy, police department employee telephone numbers are given out only to other employees of the Oaktown Police Department. When someone calls requesting an officer's telephone number, they should identify themselves. If they do not, ask them who they are. If you do not recognize the voice, do not hesitate to challenge them--in a polite way.

You may ask another dispatcher if they know the caller and have them identify the voice. You may ask the caller his/her telephone number and then compare it with the current list. You may ask the caller their badge number and/or work unit--Service Division, Warrant Bureau, etc. Members of the department understand this procedure and will not mind being questioned politely.

If you cannot verify the caller's identity, tell them that you will have a supervisor call them back with the information, then obtain a telephone number where the caller can be reached.

The Bulletin

The police department daily bulletin is an up-to-date record of the department's patrol activity and is used daily by virtually every officer. It is typed by PSD's in the comm center and its accuracy, legibility and completeness are very important.

As each page of the bulletin is completed, you should make nine copies and distribute them as follows:

  • original squadroom arch file
  • three copies DD mailbox (includes Crime Analysis)
  • one copy Service Division
  • one copy RTB mailbox
  • one copy comm center file
  • one copy Chief's mailbox, (to Crime Prevention)
  • one copy Reserve sergeant's box
  • one copy property room

During times of infrequent incidents, you may have to make a copy of a partially completed page and give it to the on-coming patrol sergeant so that the latest information may be read at the platoon meeting. You may then return the original to the typewriter and complete it before distributing it. Remember to destroy the temporary copy on the squadroom file when you distribute the completed copy.

Platoon meetings are held at 0645, 1445 and 2345. You should anticipate these times and have as many incidents as possible typed on the bulletin for distribution.The task of a dispatcher handling fire-related telephone call is to obtain the necessary information, route the caller to the proper person or agency, or to dispatch the proper emergency equipment. At the same time, the dispatcher screens out those calls not appropriately handled by the fire department or which are not considered emergencies. To do this, the dispatcher asks a series of questions that elicit the most information in the least amount of time.

NON-EMERGENCIES

If the caller asks for a particular person or division in the fire department, give them the telephone number and then transfer them. If the caller requests information provided by another city agency, give the caller the telephone number, then transfer them to that number. In some cases, you will need to refer the caller to an outside agency. Determine the number and give it to the caller. If you can find no telephone number, give them as much information as you can so they may find the number themselves. Note that some numbers are unlisted and may not be given out to the public.

Note that some telephone numbers are unlisted and should not be given out to the public. If you have any question if a number should be given out, consult your supervisor.

To determine what fire department person or department handles a particular subject, consult the RESPONSIBILITIES chart in the Appendix.

EMERGENCIES

The goal of the dispatcher handling an emergency call is to obtain the needed information quickly and completely. You must often calm the caller and take command of the situation by telling an excited person to calm down, and then by asking the person specific questions.

For emergencies of all types, an exact location is crucial for quick response. Precious minutes can be spent by firefighters finding the correct address and the proper apartment number.

Locations

Callers reporting emergencies may not be able to stay at the telephone. For this reason, always determine the LOCATION first by asking the caller the exact address. If the caller is not sure of his/her location, coach them for a location---ask what business they are at, are they near a store, school or other identifiable landmark, what's next door? Once you have the location, it is policy that you REPEAT it back to the caller and ask if there is any room or apartment number. For example...

Caller: There's a fire here.
Disp: What's the address?
Caller: I'm at 1511 Blake.
Disp: That's 1511 Blake?
Caller: That's right.
Disp: Is there any apartment number?
Caller: It's number four. Disp: OK.......

If the call is received on the 9-1-1 system, the dispatcher shall enter the party's telephone number in the incident record for possible later reference. If the caller is telephoning from a business, get the name of the business, as that will usually be more identifiable to the responding units than a address number.

Sometimes the caller is at a distance from the actual incident and may not be able to give a specific location. In this case, question them on the direction they are looking---compass directions, toward the Bay or hills, toward Oakland or Albany. Use landmarks or visible buildings to narrow down the location, such as "three houses east of the school" or "on the north side, three houses up from the intersection." For example...

Caller: I'd like to report a fire.
Disp. : What's address---------------------> get location first!
Caller: I'm at 1902 Blake St.
Disp. : 1902 Blake? Is there any apartment number?-------> repeat address
Caller: No, it's a house, here.
Disp. : What's on fire?------------------> will determine equipment to send
Caller: Well, I don't know exactly.
Disp. : What do you see?------------------------------> personal knowledge
Caller: I see flames coming from a building.
Disp. : What's the address of the building?---------------> location again!
Caller: I don't know exactly.
Disp. : Is it across the street, or where is it from you?
Caller: Yes, it's directly across the street from me.
Disp. : Okay, we'll be right there.---------------------> positive response

Proper Addresses

While talking to the person reporting the emergency, you should try to determine if the street and/or street number is valid for Oaktown. There are several Oaktown streets that are duplicated in surrounding cities but that have different block number ranges. If the street guide shows that the incident is in another jurisdiction, transfer them to that city or take the information and relay it to the other fire department.

Oaktown responds to incidents only within Oaktown, except for those areas served under standing mutual aid agreements. You may not dispatch firefighting equipment outside of the city, except under these limited mutual aid agreements, without the authorization of the on-duty A/C. However, if a fire unit is in the field and sees an incident occurring in another jurisdiction, they may respond to it. However, you should immediately notify the affected jurisdiction for their response.

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FIRES

The primary information to be obtained by the dispatcher on fire calls in the location of the incident and the NATURE, so that the proper equipment may be sent directly to the scene. The dispatcher must then determine the proper equipment to send.

The decisions of the dispatcher depend a great deal on the accuracy of the information obtained from the caller, and how the caller is viewing the situation. You must remember that you are dealing with persons in a stressful situation who may not be able to see or understand fully what is happening. They may exaggerate or underestimate the situation.

It is essential that an adequate number of firefighters and equipment be sent on the first dispatch to handle a fire emergency. Because of this, the basic rule of fire dispatching is--- do not to take anything for granted. If you are in doubt, dispatch apparatus. If you are in doubt as to the severity of the situation, send too much equipment rather than too little.

Nature

Determine the nature of a fire incident by asking the caller, "What do you see?" If they see smoke or flames, ask them, "Where is it coming from?" Narrow down the source of the smoke or flames as much as possible. If they are reporting smoke, ask them the color, how long they have seen it, and if they see flames with it. If the caller says the smoke is coming from a building, ask if from a window, door, chimney, etc. Ask them if they see anyone near the smoke or fire---a clue that it may be a barbecue or illegal burning. For example...

Caller: The dryer is on fire.
Disp. : What do you see? Do you see flames?
Caller: Well, I'm up here in my apartment, so it's hard to see.
Disp. : Did you go down to the laundry room?
Caller: Yes, I was down there a minute ago.
Disp. : What did you see then?
Caller: I saw flames coming from the dryer.--------> personal knowledge
Disp. : 2309 Piedmont. Okay, we'll be right there.---------> repeat address

If the caller is reporting a vehicle fire, ask them where vehicle is parked ---in the street, in a garage, etc., and what type of vehicle it is--- car, truck (what kind?), van, etc. This information indicates how serious the fire is and will help you determine what equipment to send.

Rely only on what a caller can see or smell personally and not upon their suspicions or conclusions. Ask them specific, physically-related questions, such as "Is the door hot?", "Do you see sparks?" or "What's the toaster doing now?"

It is very common for excited persons to relate two, separate events or observations and to conclude that they are connected. For example, a person smells an odor and their lights won't work. Ask them, "What makes you think the odor is related to the lights not working?" Their answer might reveal what they are actually observing and provide details upon which to base your dispatch decision.

Safety Advice

Callers often have no experience in dangerous situations and do not realize how perilous the situation is for them. If the person is reporting a hazardous materials incident or a structure fire where they may be in danger, advise them to immediately leave the area or building. If their oven is on fire, tell them to leave the oven door closed. If a pan is on fire on the range, tell them to turn off the burner and to try to cover the pan.

Never let the caller's lack of concern dictate your response. Dispatch a company even tho the caller feels that "the fire was real small and I think I put it out." Fires can smolder for hours or days and flare up later, especially in stuffed chairs, couches and beds.

In all cases, tell the caller to send someone outside to wait for the fire apparatus and assist them in finding the location promptly.

MEDICAL EMERGENCIES

The Objectives

The fire department provides emergency ambulance service to the City of Oaktown and the County using two ambulances designated Rescue 12 (Station 2 at 2029 Oaktown Way) and Rescue 13 (Station 4 at 1802 Pine). Ambulance operations are supervised by an EMS Director, who holds the rank of Captain. Ambulance operating procedures are contained in General Order 15.5.

A medical emergency is defined in General Order 15.5 as one "requiring immediate medical attention by reason of injury or illness." If the call is an emergency, the dispatcher will send the nearest engine or truck company, and the nearest ambulance, both responding Code 3. If the call is not an emergency, you will refer the caller to alternate transportation (taxi, bus, friend or private ambulance).

The objective of the dispatcher taking a medical call is to evaluate the seriousness of the victim's SYMPTOMS and to send an appropriate response of equipment, while maintaining sufficient equipment in reserve for additional calls.

To be able to send the nearest ambulance, the dispatcher shall constantly maintain the status and location of the ambulances on the display board. Ambulances not in quarters should report their location when outside their home district. Ambulances may sometimes request that they be assigned "second up," meaning that the other ambulance should be dispatched first, regardless of district. Once the other ambulance is dispatched, you should notify the second -up unit that they are now "first due."

Methods of Questioning

It is impossible to diagnose a person's medical problem from symptoms described over the telephone. However, using proper techniques of questioning, it is possible to determine the seriousness of a person's symptoms and if that person should immediately be transported to the hospital.

The key to this method of questioning is to concentrate on the victim's symptoms and not the underlying medical problem causing them. You should attempt to talk with the victim directly to obtain them, if possible. However, in cases where the victim is a a distance or is incapacitated, you will have to rely on a third party for information on the symptoms. You are never required to speak to the victim before dispatching an ambulance.

Quite often, the circumstances of an incident will indicate the seriousness of the victim's condition and you will not have to ask questions about his/her symptoms. For instance, a person fell from a second-story window or was struck by a car. In other cases, you will have to ask a series of specific, symptomrelated questions to determine the seriousness of the victim's medical problem.

Questioning should proceed from the general to the more specific. If the caller's first answers do not indicate an emergency, continue to ask questions until you are sure of the situation. Remember, usually something specific occurred that made the caller phone for an ambulance. Your questioning should try to determine what that "something" was.

It is not uncommon to receive calls from persons who are very excited and who use profanity or insults. It is important that you don't take these words personally or make a decision based on your reaction to them. The situation should always be judged on the facts presented by the caller. It is up to you to calmly question the caller to obtain the facts in these cases.

Here is a diagram showing a method of questioning which has proved successful in the past.

What's the problem? . . .
What symptoms does--------> not breathing he/she have? bleeding . heart problems . poisoning
What is he/she doing? burn . unconscious . pain
How long? seizure . fever .
What happened?----------> auto accident . fall . assault . allergy Conscious? medication . sports injury
Personal information------------> age . condition . sex .
Medical history-----------------> conditions medication hospitalization treatment

Note that your first questions should be about the person's symptoms. If the caller is unsure or cannot describe the symptoms, you must then ask about what happened to the victim. If nothing specific occurred, then your next questions should be about the victim's past medical history, age, etc.

You ask other questions which may give a clue to the seriousness of the medical problem. Can the victim walk? Is he/she talking and what are they saying? Has something happened in the last 10-15 minutes that made you call? Have you talked to the victim's doctor and when? Have long have you been with the person?

Callers may report that someone is "having a heart attack" or other conclusive condition. They should be questioned about what specific symptoms they observe and asked, "What makes you think it's a heart attack?". When you talk to third-parties, try to determine their distance from the victim. Usually, the accuracy and completeness of the problem is related to the distance--- if close the information is accurate, if from afar the information is more general.

If at any time you determine that the caller does not know anything further about the circumstance and you cannot speak to the victim, don't question the caller further or delay a possible dispatch while information is relayed. Base your dispatch decision on what you already know.

EMD Cards

The city of Salt Lake City has devised a procedure for screening medical emergency calls. The protocol separates emergencies from non-emergencies and also determines what type of medical response will be sent. It provides for dispatchers to provide pre-arrival instructions to the caller which often relieve the victim's symptoms or distress. The full system is not used in Oaktown; however, the cards are available and may be used to provide you with questions to ask callers.

The SLC questioning results in four pieces of information that are passed on to the responding units--if the person is conscious, if breathing, the victim's age and the chief complaint.

The cards are organized into a flip-file with headings of the chief complaint. When you receive a medical call and learn the chief complaint, flip to that heading and note the "key questions" listed on the left side of the card. The possible causes are listed directly above the main card. Pre-arrival instructions are listed to the right and the dispatch priorities are listed at the bottom of the card.

Oaktown does not give pre-arrival instructions to callers. Also, the dispatch priorities listed pertain to a two-tiered level of medical service, such as EMT and paramedic service which is not used in Oaktown.

Dispatches

Mandatory

An EMS dispatch is MANDATORY if any ONE of the following symptoms is described by the caller:

  • breathing problem
  • bleeding, substantial, or minor if very old or young
  • heart problems, including pain/history, arrest
  • poisoning
  • unconsciousness
  • burn, serious or covers extensive area of the body
  • fracture
  • dislocation
  • emergency childbirth

An EMS dispatch is also mandatory if requested by an on-the-scene doctor, nurse or public safety agency (highway patrol, fire, police, transit district). The dispatcher shall only question the reporting agency to obtain an adequate location for the incident.

Others

An ambulance will be sent to the report of a Condition B fire. The ambulance should be dispatched Code 2 and will be considered out-of-service, altho they will NOT be reported out-of-service to the county unless they transport someone from the fire scene.

On rare occasions, a hospital emergency room will request a Code 3 transfer of a patient to the other hospital. Dispatch the nearest ambulance only and treat it like any other incident. Oaktown does not, however, transfer non-critical patients. Direct such requests from hospitals to the A/C or EMS Director.

Under written agreements, Oaktown's ambulances also respond to incidents in other cities within the county. Requests from cities other than Albany (who calls directly) will come from the county comm center. They will indicate the problem, the address, the Code 11, the patient's call-back number and, if you ask them, the reporting agency (Liberty, patient direct). When dispatching Oaktown ambulances to outside cities, attempt to give the ambulance the nearest crossstreet and the quickest route. If one of Oaktown's ambulances is out-ofservice, do NOT dispatch the remaining ambulance into another jurisdiction.

By policy, Oaktown's ambulance will respond to transport persons being committed by Transit Police. In the case of an emergency, they will request an ambulance and engine; in nonemergency cases they may request only an ambulance for transport.

Police procedures require that the fire department ambulance stand-by during a Barricaded Subject/Hostage Negtiation Team (BS/HNT) operation or any incident involving an explosive device. When requested for a BS/HNT incident, determine a safe stand-by location, assign an incident number, dispatch the ambulance Code 2 and notify the A/C. Because these incidents may last several hours or even days, the A/C may arrange relief for the ambulance crew. When requested for an explosive device incident, dispatch the ambulance Code 2 to a safe stand-by location and remind them that radio transmissions are prohibited within 300 feet of the scene.

Alternate Transportation

If you determine that the caller does not have an emergency, explain that the fire department handles only life or death emergencies and, "From what you describe, this isn't a situation the fire department handles." If appropriate, you should agree with the caller that the victim needs to see a doctor or go to the hospital, but suggest alternate transportation, such as...

  • taxi
  • bus
  • friend with car
  • private ambulance from the Yellow Pages

Do not suggest specific ambulance companies to callers, but refer them to the "Ambulance" section in the telephone book. You should not contact a private ambulance company directly, as they will assume the fire department is officially ordering the ambulance and bill accordingly. Rather, have the victim or caller contact the ambulance company. Tell the caller to tell the ambulance company that it is not an emergency transport, but a routine transport.

Do not use the police department as an alternative method of transportation for medical incidents, due the uncertainty of their response time. The police should be sent only to those cases which you believe are NOT medical emergencies and which involve crimes, incidents on/with city property or in those cases where the nature of the entire problem is unknown.

If the victim has had a continuing illness and is being treated regularly by a doctor and the situation is clearly not an emergency, you may suggest that the caller contact the victim's doctor for advice. Tell the caller, "If the doctor thinks the person should go to the hospital, then contact a private ambulance company in the Yellow Pages."

Chronic Medical Caller

Most persons use fire department services only once--because of an accident or sudden medical problem. However, there are many persons who have chronic medical conditions which require periodic attention by a doctor or hospital and who call the fire department for assistance. In some cases their problem may be an emergency. Other times they may simply need transportation. But, after receiving several calls from them, it may not be possible for the dispatcher to determine if the situation is an emergency or not.

For these reasons, the Fire Department's policy is that you may not refuse service to chronic callers based on their frequency of calling. If they express any degree of a medical problem, you shall dispatch apparatus. Of course, you should still screen the call for appropriateness--for instance, the fire department would not respond to raise a window shade or get a person a drink of water.

If the caller has called more than three times within 30 days, the responding fire officer will make a report to the EMT Director, who will contact the city's Health Department for assistance. In most cases, the person's medical problem can be solved without the need for continual fire department response.

Advice Nurse

Nurses at Oaktown emergency room will answer basic medical questions from the public. If a caller has a NON-emergency medical problem, but you feel they may require medical treatment, direct them to an emergency room to talk to the advice nurse. Do not use the advice nurse to determine if the caller has an emergency, but rather only for advice on the treatment of non-emergency medical problems.

Response Areas

Oaktown ambulances are first-due in all areas of Oaktown except the Strawberry Canyon area, which is covered by Pintown Volunteer Fire's ambulance. Requests for an ambulance outside of this area should be referred to the proper agency, unless the county or another jurisdiction is requesting mutual aid. In that case, refer the request to the Assistant Chief for his action.

Special Situations

If a caller says that the injury resulted from a fight or use of a weapon (gun, knife, club), a bicycle or auto accident, or any injury resulting from or occurring on city property (any sidewalk, city buildings, parks, etc.), obtain complete information on the caller (name, address and telephone) and create a police incident for their response. If a crime is involved, you should relay complete information to the responding fire units using the following standard phrases:

  • "police are responding" police are on the way
  • "police are on the scene" police are there, situation unknown
  • "the scene is secure" police are there, safe to enter
  • "the scene is not secure. Hold up a block away" police are there but it is not safe. Hold at the designated location until advised by the dispatcher to enter

If a caller requests that the fire department respond without red lights or sirens, explain that a quick response is necessary and that policy requires the red lights and siren. If the caller insists, tell them that you will relay the request to the ambulance--but don't argue with the caller. In the comments section of the CAD incident, enter "Caller requests Code 2" and the radio dispatcher will give that information to the responding units.

Often the caller will say that the victim does not want to go to the hospital, but that "something must be done." Explain that the fire department cannot treat or transport anyone without their permission. Determine the person's symptoms and, if it sounds as if the victim does require hospitalization, complete create a police CAD incident. Explain to the caller that police will come to evaluate the person to see if hospitalization can be ordered for the person. If the police decide to legally commit the person, dispatch the engine and ambulance to transport.

In some cases the caller will indicate only that the victim is "upset" or is "acting strange," and there are no obvious physical injuries. The caller should then be questioned about the person's prior medical history. If it can be determined the person is mentally ill, create a police police incident for dispatch.

You should always be aware of background noises, the caller's demeanor and voice, the caller's location relative to the victim, the time of day and other information that might indicate the true nature of the incident.

You should avoid using the term "drugs" when questioning callers, as they are often reluctant to admit that legal or illegal drugs are involved. Ask the caller/victim if they have been taking any "medicine" or "medication."

All serious industrial accidents requiring more than 24-hours hospitalization must be reported to Industrial Safety as soon as practical. See the RESOURCE MANUAL.

Patients with medical insurance may be transported by Oaktown's ambulance and will still be covered by the insurance plan if the situation is an emergency. If you receive a call from a Kaiser patient, dispatch normally and the ambulance crew will determine the patient's status. If the patient is stable and does not require immediate transport, the ambulance crew will have the patient notify Kaiser and then will stand-by to await the arrival of their ambulance.

The lack of any medical insurance is never a factor in the fire department's transportation or the hospital's treatment of an emergency victim. Emergency patients without insurance of any kind will be treated immediately and then transferred later to a county facility. Callers who indicate a non-emergency and who say they have insurance should be directed to alternate transpor-tation.

Oaktown's ambulances do not transport to hospitals outside of the city. If a caller indicates they have a non-emergency transport, refer them to a private ambulance company in the Yellow Pages. If the caller describes an emergency but insists on going to an outside hospital, explain that "This sounds like an emergency that should be transported to the nearest hospital. Do you want us to repond?" If the person still refuses, refer them to a private ambulance company. However, in some cases you may wish to dispatch an engine company to evaluate, especially when the caller does not seem to understand the serious-ness of the victim's injury or illness.

Sometimes other public safety agencies will contact the county to request an ambulance. Usually this involves the highway patrol and interstate vehicle incidents. When the country receives such a call, they determine the jurisdiction without regard to any local mutual aid agreements. If the county calls with an incident bordering Pinetown and their ambulance is in a better position to handle, accept the dispatch and then notify Pinetown for their response.

When a private ambulance company such as Acme receives a citizen's request for an ambulance and the situation sounds life-threatening, county procedures require that they immediately give the information to the county medical dispatch, who will notify us. Sometimes the urgency of the call is difficult for Acme to determine, yet they relay it to the county and do not ask the caller to hang up and dial 911. If the county refers an emergency call from a private ambulance company, proceed as follows:

  • ask the county for a call back number
  • if supplied, call to determine actual situation
  • if emergency, dispatch apparatus
  • if non-emergency, refer patient back to private and notify the county of non-response
  • if no call back number, dispatch apparatus

If arriving units discover that the victim is already dead and they do not administer CPR, they will radio, "We have a DOA here." The dispatcher should then create a police incident. Only after an investigation by the police will the police officer request that the coroner be called. The engine or ambulance will stand-by to await the arrival of the police officer.

County Medical Alerts

The county will periodically issue alerts, either red or yellow, to indicate a possible or actual medical emergency. They are handled as follows:

yellow alert limit non-emergency runs, notify EMS Director and A/C

red alert dispatch equipment as requested by the county and as authorized by the A/C

Confidential Information

All medical information concerning ambulance incidents is considered confidential and MAY NOT be divulged to anyone. Citizens looking for relatives may be told the location and disposition (first aid, transport, CPR, etc.) of any incident, but they should be directed to Herrick, Alta Bates or Children's Hospitals for any medical information.

Fees

The fire department charges fees for ambulance transports based on distance and medical supplies used. However, the ability to pay is NEVER a requirement for a response. Inquiries about fees or bills should be directed to the ambulance billing office, 888-9001

Common Medical Incidents

An analysis of hundreds of ambulances requests reveals these common symptoms or circumstances with which you should be familiar:

  • bleeding
  • unconscious
  • fall
  • auto accident
  • chest pain
  • seizure
  • breathing prob.
  • pain
  • sports injury
  • cardiac history
  • overdose
  • diabetic
  • allergy
  • emphysema
  • dislocation
  • burn
  • dialysis problem
  • paraplegic problem

In addition, you might hear the following medical terms:

  • pacemaker
  • asthma
  • hypertension
  • insulin shock
  • quad
  • quadraplegic
  • emphysema
  • Valium
  • Dilantin
  • Librium
  • lithium
  • Quaalude
  • codeine
  • insulin
  • Talwin
  • Darvon
  • digitalis
  • cocaine

COMPLETING THE CAD ENTRY

While talking to the caller on the telphone, you should enter the information into CAD.

The comments that you enter should be specific enough to allow the radio dispatcher to determine what fire apparatus to dispatch. If a fire, indicate what is on fire or exactly what the caller saw. If a medical problem, indicate the age, sex and chief complaint or major symptom of the victim. For example....

"25M, breathing problem"
"baby, seizure"
"flames from 2nd floor"
"trash fire on corner"
"auto accident"
"wall socket electrical short"
"oven fire"
"water control, hydrant"

The call-back number shall be included if the call was received on 911 or the person is reporting a HAZMAT incident.

When designating the location of an incident, you may use the standard abbreviations "N/T", for next-to, "IFO" for in-front-of, "A/F" for across-from or "R/O" for rear of.

POSITIVE RESPONSE

It's important that the caller not misunderstand about the department's response to a call. If you intend to dispatch equipment tell the caller, "We'll be right there" or something similar. If the situation is not a fire department situation (sewer problem, plumbing problem), tell them "That's not something the fire department handles" and refer them to any city department that does, or tell them that they must contact a private company.

If you are not dispatching anyone tell the caller why not and what they should do. For example, "We can't send you an ambulance for a non-emergency. If the person cannot go to the hospital in a car, then you should call a private ambulance."

If a caller requests an ambulance and then, during the call decides that everything is okay or otherwise changes their mind, ask the person "So you don't want us to come out?" When they answer "yes", tell them, "Okay, we won't be responding." This type of questioning will eliminate misunderstandings and prevent any later complaints about our response or lack of it.

In all cases where you intend to dispatch equipment, ask the caller to send someone outside to the street to meet the apparatus and guide them to the proper location.

FIRE SERVICE CALLS

The fire department also responds to certain non-emergency calls to provide specialized equipment or expertise. A response to a non-emergency shall not be made if several fire units are out of service or if there are several emergencies in progress. Consult the A/C if you have any question about sending equipment to a non-emergency.

  • lock-in engine or truck (eng. has ladders to reach 2nd floor)
  • lock-out eng/truck, if something on stove or infant inside
  • water control engine
  • aid to invalid engine, engine/truck if large person
  • leaking roofs no response, refer to private companies
  • water in basement engine to shut off utilities only; private co.'s for pumping out water
  • falling trees engine to check utilities
  • landslides engine to check utilities
  • animal in tree no response
  • elevator rescue engine and truck; building maintenance if City facility

If the caller's situation falls outside of the fire department's area of responsibility, tell them, "This is not something the fire department handles." Suggest what other agencies, if any, would handle the situation and give them the proper telephone number. See the RESOURCE MANUAL.

MUTUAL AID

The fire department provides firefighting and ambulance assistance to several surrounding jurisdictions under mutual aid agreements. Several of these are standing agreements and receive a response as if the location were in Oaktown. All other responses to locations outside Oaktown must be approved by the on-duty A/C, Deputy Chief or Fire Chief.

The standing mutual aid agreements are for fire or medical incidents:

  • in Oak Park
  • on Ridge Peak
  • on the interstate in Pinetown
  • a single ambulance to an adjacent city at the request of the county

All other requests for mutual aid from other cities or the county should be directed to the on-duty Assistant Chief, who will give you dispatch instructions. You should know the specific mutual aid procedures as described in the county Mutual Aid Plan binder, General Orders 15.14, 15.15 and the Resource Manual.

HAZMAT INCIDENTS

Any incident involving the release of a toxic material shall be considered a HAZMAT incident. Specific procedures have been developed for handling these, as outlined in General Order XX.x and the Resource Manual. Basically, you should dispatch the nearest engine company to investigate and, if they confirm a HAZMAT incident, you will then dispatch the HAZMAT team of Truck 2 and Engine 2. If requested by the A/C, you will notify county, state or federal agencies for their assistance. Specific procedures are outlined in the RESOURCE MANUAL.