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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Majour incidents

    Please move this if necessary.

    Please bear with me for the necessary background, then I have some questions, as once again, I'm lobbying my service for change.

    In the last little while our service has had 3 police involved shootings, and an officer stabbed. After each incident the officers on the road involved were taken to the station and "defused" and then eventually debriefed/critical incident debriefed. For the duration of the shift officers from other areas of our region covered calls for service in the area where the incident occurred.
    AND each time !! the communicators that listened to the incident go down thru the phone lines (sometimes talking to hostages) and the dispatcher that handled the incident were not relieved and had to continue on duty (sometimes for as long as 10 more hours) Each time, these same calltakers and dispatchers, a few days later or sometimes in a month or so, broke down, had to take some time off and/or go see a counsellor to get thru PTSD.
    Our service does have in place PTSD teams who came out to see the communicators involved either 10-12 hrs later, or the next day, and twice the communicators were invited to the CIS debrief.

    So my questions are:
    How does your service handle communicators in situations like this? (I'm not talking your run of the mill gun call, or pursuit. I'm talking police involved shootings, either us shooting or them being shot at or stabbed or hurt in a crash or something - or as one of our calltakers had,the line open while a family burned to death in a fire)
    What is in place to handle staffing levels if your communicators are allowed to be relieved from the operational floor?
    Any suggestions about how I can present this to upper management, and also, does anyone have any suggestions about papers written or books that have dealt with communicators in these situations.

    So far, I've contacted our Association and they are going to have in Communications staff for a "round table" meeting to get a feel for how the unit as a whole feels about not being able to take a breather and be relieved. I've also proposed an "on call" list whereby staff would volunteer to be on call incase a majour incident happened and relief was needed ASAP.
    Any other suggestions would be welcomed.

    Thanks in advance

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    SE Minnesota

    PM me your email address. I will send you some contact info for the Metro area team in Minnesota. They will be able to give you more information about the training they go through and what exactly they do. It's one team that has officers, dispatchers, nurses, er staff, fire fighters, paramedics, chaplins, and mental health professionals.

    Good luck, it's impressive that you're taking the initiative to get some change done on such an important issue.
    You may know where you are and what you're doing, God may know where you are and what you're doing, but if the dispatcher doesn't know where you are and what you're doing; you better have a good relationship with God.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Atlanta, GA
    Don't be shy about reaching further afield. As much progress as has been made in post incident critical incident stress management in law enforcement, there is still too much of a tendency for the cops to huddle and not recognize how far the ripples spread. I too applaud your initiative and since you have it suggest you reach out to the USSS, ATF, DEA and the FBI. All have fairly well developed peer support and professional counselor guided programs that cover a broad range of issues. Nor am I judging that they are the only or the best; they are the ones I know best and have the best basis for recommending. Most started with the critical incident and realized there are a variety of stressors that get magnified in this professional world and have worked to develop programs. Key is to get some idea of the both the scope and practicalities of what they do, how they organize, relationship of peer counselors and professional counselors, how they initiate and who does. Not in anyway suggesting that they are ideal models, but they are folks who usually check out what the various agencies at other levels are doing that seems to be working and accumulate it and make a program of it. Kind of shortcuts to what national agencies have found around the map and adopted in building a program for your needs.

    I have a bias toward peer support as a starting place because both ease of talking and street cred open doors relatively quickly. But development and care of good ones is an art in itself. I wish you every success in what you are trying to do and if I can open a door or create an intro, let me know.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    North Metro Denver, CO
    All I can say is good luck! When the Departments start to realize that Dispatchers and Calltakers are the front lines then things will change. We have had 4 officer involved shootings in the last 12 months and 3 of those where with one department. 2 or 3 of the bad guys were killed. I never found out on one of them. In the last two years I have heard of one dispatcher being offered to go to a debrief. Now the sad, sad part of it is the SGT in charge at the time was my father and he understands What dispatchers go thru. That is why the dispatcher was able to go. We can not ask to go to a debrief it has to be offered and we have to have enough people to cover. Half the time they don't tell us that there is a debrief.

    Again all I can say is that i wish you luck!!


    "Everyone runs away from me" -- Ralph Wiggam

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    South Carolina
    I agree with ATF about the need for peer support. Telecommunicators in your area need to get involved in the debriefing teams by getting the appropriate training.

    If we had an incient that your describing at my center anyone working would be required to attend a debriefing. Anyone employed at the agency would be allowed to attend on a voluntary basis. Additionally, whoever is in charge at the time of the incident in the Comm center has the authority to call additional people in to relieve others working.

    Someone once told me that time is a predator that stalks us all our lives. But maybe time is also a companion who goes with us on our journey, and reminds us to cherish the moments of our lives because they will never come again.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Newton, NC
    Well, where I am now, if the need arrises where someone needs to leave, we have four managment members, myself included that can and will come in at any time, if we are in town that is. Our center administrator will be the first one through the door, to take over for someone.

    We have the option of using our mental health system, which is made open to us for any such need, or any need not related to work. And we do have people that make use of it. And several of us that should.

    We've had officer involved shootings, shots fired at officers, one officer hit (fragment in the arm, not serious), incidents where our people had to send responders to the scene where our on people have passed away or killed in an accident. We have actually had one debriefing for the shift that had to take the call where one of there on had passed away from a heart attack, just after calling 9-1-1 to get help for victims in a wreck that happened in front of his friends house. Called for help, then sat down and died. Good friend.

    Even the night we had a search for a missing co-worker that we found dead of a motorcycle accident we didnt have a debriefing for the officers or myself that directed the efforts of the search. Took ten minutes to compose myself and finished out the shift. That was pretty much it. Another good friend. That was my old agency.

    Anyway, I am getting into too much story telling. If your agency has the use of the Mental Health system, make use of it for these employees. If not, try to arrange it. Stress is no joke.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    New York State

    Exclamation Until your agency will take care of you, Take care of each other

    First let me address shift coverage. What happens if a dispatcher/calltaker gets sick during a shift or has a family emergency? Although we all understand immediate relief is not always possible in public safety, we also all learn that taking care of yourself is first priority. This is a bigger issue than just CISD. Your department needs to learn that not much happens without Communications. Back to CISD specifics.

    Don't wait for management to invite you to a de-briefing. Go. If you are not allowed or are unable to attend, seek CISD from an outside agency. Perhaps a neighboring dept or the County Mental Health Dept. maintains a team. If nothing else, get together with the rest of the dispatchers involved and do some peer support. By no means does a de-briefing have to be a formal event with a staff, structure, outline, etc. A group of friends and a pizza can do wonders.
    "There is no second place winner"-- Bill Jordan



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