02/22/10 93 W, 1 I - + 11 - 9 Old School Dispatching Starts at Midnight

Remember the days before computer-aided dispatch, when fire and rescue units were dispatched by station? We're talking circa 1982. Before AVL. Before locution. Before alpha pagers. If those old radios could talk, right? Get ready for a blast from the past at midnight, when all CAD functions go offline for a long-awaited hardware and software upgrade. The outage is expected to last until 0900 tomorrow, Tuesday morning. It's old school on the radio. Pull up your easy chair, and enjoy the memories. Then go get on the truck.

A Little more info:


I will be up and monitoring.
Marshall KE4ZNR
Marshall Sherard KE4ZNR (Email) (Web Site) - 02/22/10 - 21:14

Just out of curiosity, who in the field likes locution and who likes a dispatcher giving out the calls? Please give reasoning for either.
Headquarters - 02/22/10 - 22:00

Here’s a buff’s take. Love the consistency of a single voice, intonations, inflections, etc. In the days of old, when knights were bold, and dispatchers spoke on the radio, some voices were considerably better and easier to understand than others. One voice makes for great consistency. Downsides? Can’t understand some of the numbers, some times, notably some of the teens. There are times that “fifteen” can sound like “sixteen” or “thirteen.”
Legeros - 02/22/10 - 22:06

Over the last few years I have warmed up to “Locutia”. I have cassette tapes of Raleigh/Wake Fire/EMS dispatches before Locution was around and pull them out from time to time just to remember what dispatches were like before automated paging was in service. As Legeros says both have their benefits/drawbacks.
Marshall Sherard KE4ZNR (Email) (Web Site) - 02/22/10 - 23:35

I agree with Mike. Some were awesome, others were just WOW!! Remember the Maggie days? I wish Locution would pronounce numbers like this; “Tac one-six” versus “Tac sixteen”.
Silver - 02/23/10 - 03:40

Something I have always wondered about— especially as I worked as a disc jockey and a traffic reporter during and right after college— do comm centers hire or require based on vocal ability? Presumably so, but just how stringent are they?
Legeros - 02/23/10 - 07:29

@Silver Wow. I almost forgot about Maggie. Although to her credit she did work very hard to make herself able to be understood. I remember her first few weeks on the job every time she said something the officers would radio back “10-9?”. By the end of her tour of duty she had quite a following. Her last dispatch on air was very emotional as lots of officers wished her well over the radio.
I do hope she is doing well wherever she is these days.
Marshall Sherard KE4ZNR (Email) (Web Site) - 02/23/10 - 10:49

I would have to say that I get tired of the monotony of locution. From a call response point, I can’t testify, but just from listening I would rather hear a distinct voice. Then you do have those who just can’t cut the mustard and prove that locution is better as a standard. I do know that in a county to the South East of wake, there is nothing in the job interviews that bases anything part on vocal ability. As a matter of fact, there have been several that “came though” (and left) who were simply bad and didn’t need to be talking on the radio (and I don’t mean they had a medical problem, they just couldn’t speak clearly)...but they could type and fog a mirror and accepted the low pay, so they were hired. I don’t mean to take away from those veterans and other who are clearly cut out to dispatch and were born with a radio voice, but the reason that all the employees aren’t like that is simply because of pay. Wether it is locution or the old-school dispatching, the best part is living through the transition and being part of the history!
rookie - 02/23/10 - 11:13

...and sorry for the typos.
rookie - 02/23/10 - 11:16

I have to agree with Mike on his “downside” and Silver on his take. I think a lot of confusion could be eliminated if we were instructed to say one-nine versus nineteen. Quite frequently I hear Hq getting 15 and 16 confused. It would be hard to confuse one-five and one-six.
RescueRanger - 02/23/10 - 11:25

working in two places that use different dispatch types I prefer the Locution dispatch any day of the week. It’s clear, consistent and takes emotion out of it. It’s like when we hear “possible str…. oke” on one dispatch and “possible str… ucture fire” on another. Now with that said, I have to preface that with the fact that the TCs still need to do their job of giving updates over the assigned channels and not relying on us getting the information over the alpha or the rip and run. I would like them to get some of the names, numbers etc corrected, which hopefully is happening with this upgrade.

About Maggie… amazing how over the phone you could understand every word, on the radio you didn’t know if it was “breathing” difficulty or “breeding” difficulty… I won’t ever forget that night!

Jeff, I agree they need to break the teens down into ONE-NINE or ONE-SEVEN.
shevais - 02/23/10 - 11:36

Listening to the alert channel this morning, I am not hearing any TAC or OPS assignments… Can anyone expand upon this? Has anyone run a fire during this period of time, and if so were you given a channel to work on?
Bob P. - 02/23/10 - 12:12

Human Dispatching! At least that way you have the potential to get all the information on the call. Im going to beat a dead horse…but there is no point in wearing an alpha pager that just says “seizures” in the comments when EMS gets everything right up to how long they seized. And dont say its not true…Know of plenty of times where first responders were sent into a hostile environment and EMS had the info on their MDC to stage for PD.

maggiemaggiemaggie….could never understand if we were going to a dumpster fire or a structure fire. Also remember an emotional rant to New Hope FD while they were responding to a code blue on Pin Oak dr…“hurry up hurry up! theyre doing CPR!”
J.Boggs (Email) - 02/23/10 - 13:08

Really miss the pre-alert. “Headquarters house fire 309 Cooke Street”. With some dispatchers you could tell it was going to be a house fire dispatch by the way they said Headquarters. All units were out the door before the dispatched was made (once I got Tramp on the engine) because we knew exactly were the boundrys were. People paid more atention to the radio, knew who was on another call or out of service. No locution with the one way streets, stoplights and speed limits to pick wich units. Did I mention the RFD class of 1990 has 20 years in!!!!!.
Rob Mitchell - 02/23/10 - 14:18

The real advantage of Locution is not in the consistent voice pattern, information order, set cadence, etc – it is in the fact that as a County we can dispatch well over 100,000 fire and EMS calls per year and not tie up one or more telecommunicators performing that function. That is a telecommunicator that is available to answer you on a Tac channel, pick up a 911 call, hear that officer needing assistance, etc. And Jason, the information differences have nothing to do with Locution, it is merely that EMS and PD have MDCs in every response vehicle that provide up to the second updates as information is loaded into CAD. What is sent to the alphapager is only what has been gathered by the time the location and nature have been confirmed and the call sent for dispatch. The information gathering at 911 doesn’t end there, which is fortunate for our patients. If 911 were to wait until they have all the information from a caller, call processing times would eclipse 4 minutes or more. Right now we track at 90 seconds or less on nearly every call from the 911 answer to the dispatch. This is why you will often hear a first responder added to a call after EMS has been enroute for a few minutes.

As for no OPS or TAC channels, they are either recommended or assigned within CAD. With CAD down, neither process was in place. However, they were there if needed by on-scene units. I heard several last night do exactly that.

It looks like most everything has come back to life now (whew).
Olson - 02/23/10 - 14:22

I agree that Locution frees up much needed personnel, and have been downstairs and seen how hectic it can get. I also agree that holding a call untill all information is gathered is not practical- but once the unit is en-route that information should be passed along over the tac channel and not just sent over the MDC. I also dont understand how we can get the call as a hemmorage, and EMS get it as a stabbing and not be updated until the patient’s family member meets us at the door. There are a few good ones that have called us while en-route to a MVC on 40 and told us exact locations from using the traffic cameras, I just those one or two individuals worked every day I did. Maybe the issue is with consistency or training? Maybe its just been too long since I took them a hot dozen? Probably the latter.

Any word on when fire units can expect MDC’s and why it hasnt been a priority for county fire units? I understand Municipalities are different, of course. It often seems like we have a system that isnt reaching it’s full potential.
J.Boggs (Email) - 02/23/10 - 14:58

The other main benefit to locution is the duration of the actual dispatch… there is no rambling or stumbling by a human dispatcher. Everything is said in the same order every time. There are no human errors involved, which is great during high call volume times. Locution was partially implemented (I’ve been told) to decrease lag times during processing of the call from receipt to dispatch. I personally like a human dispatcher that gives us pertinent updates such as “multiple calls” and so forth. Currently we have to ask for a lot on the fire side of things that EMS gets on their computers… which merely means we need computers on the fire trucks. Over all I believe that locution serves us more efficiently whether I like the machine or not!
Bob P. - 02/23/10 - 15:01

I have no clue on MDCs for fire apparatus. The primary motivator for them was the integration of AVL into the dispatch system for EMS. Not sure how AVL would work given the current configuration of fire agencies in the County (including the municipalities). Discussion for another blog I suppose.

The other thing not to assume is that the telecommunicator entering the additional information is the same one working the tac channel that the call is working on (or is even in the same pod within the Center). Reading the updates is a manual process for them too, as would be relaying that information over the radio.
Olson - 02/23/10 - 16:08

Some depts do have MDC’s a;ready. Morrisville has them and we are in the process of getting them. It is my understanding that several other depts are looking at them also. We will not utilize AVL just get all pertinet updates
Apex Batt Chief - 02/23/10 - 20:57

I guess I’m showing my time in service, but, whatever happened to just relaying info over the radio?
Silver - 02/23/10 - 21:20

@Silver—HIPAA would be my guess Brother. That is one of the reasons for more traffic being passed over MDT than over the air.
Marshall Sherard KE4ZNR (Email) (Web Site) - 02/23/10 - 21:23

No, not HIPPA. That’s medical treatment records (post-arrival) and privacy therein, no?

I think it’s a numbers thing, Silver. During a slow period, there are probably enough humans per information request. During a busy period, there must be far more units requesting information than humans to relay same via voice. Thus the efficiency and enhancement of mobile data.
Legeros - 02/23/10 - 21:30

As much as I hate to admit it I think locution is faster, although I prefer a human voice. I second the notion that there are more folks now that don’t know what’s going on around them because they wait for the buzzer to go off rather than carry a radio around all day.

As for the transfer of information, I think alot of the problem is that (most) of the dispatchers have never been firefighters and (most) of the firefighters have never been dispatchers so it can be hard for one to know exactly what the other wants/needs. On the fire side of things, it is obvious to me when a dispatcher has some fire experience. Alot of times they know what you mean if you don’t get something out just right, or they know what you need before you ask for it. I have been down to the comm. center for a night or two and have learned ALOT about why they do the things they do. They all do a great job!

BTW Capt. Mitchell…..you’re OLD!!!!
firedriver - 02/23/10 - 21:43

Oh, and, RFD class of 1989, was 21 years old last week!

Don’t forget the prowess of Locution during storm times. Bang, bang, bang, she’ll knock out dispatches with a frequency that can be breathtaking. Of course, not all the units may be said. Refer to pager for those!
Legeros - 02/23/10 - 21:46

Day 2 of no TAC channels and an actual dispatcher… can I say 10-76, 10-23, and 10-8 again??
Bob P. - 02/24/10 - 09:09

All very good comments, and yes-having visited the ECC last year and in early times they do have a tough job. Locutia is not all that bad, I agree in breaking down tac chan. to one-five instead of fifteen to clarify. To bring up something that got glossed over in all the defense of the dispatchers-there are many times our fire units arrive on a hostile scene that they were not notified of-which endangers us-when EMS and PD knew of it long before their arrival. It is unsettling to pull up and be heading towards a house or apt. and then see RPD come flying in with lights blazing and guns in hand, and then find out EMS has been staged waiting on them to secure a crime or domestic scene. Don’t say it doesn’t happen, or happens infrequently because I speak from experience-I have spoken several times of this occurring, and never got any effort expended to work on correcting it. So while the workload and effort put forth by dispatchers is appreciated, there are problems in the system that can and should be addressed and corrected. And before anyone has a fit because I point out a system failure-take a minute and look at what I am saying. Then perhaps we can move forward to attempt to fix things. As for MDTs on fire apparatus-money!! And that came from the horses mouth.
Goose - 02/24/10 - 09:30

I work in two different systems- one with Locution and one with real people. It took me a while to get used to Locution, but now when I work the other system, I have a hard time understanding the dispatch people. So from that point, I prefer the computer. And she can punch out the calls one right after the other. The most I have heard thus far, including move-ups, is 22 consecutive.

As to the information that is passed along to us on the bolance and to you guys on the BRT, I know there is a difference in the information you get. Sometimes we do get better information. Sometimes it’s no more than “75 y/o female, yes, yes” meaning they are “conscious and breathing”. And that may be more than you guys got.

That produces this thought to my firefightin’ brethren. Do you think it would be good and/or practical for an EMS unit to relay the updates we get over the radio? I don’t know what information you get, but I want to do all that makes your job easier and puts you in a better position to help me out. For example, if they start updating me to some sort of special condition for gaining entry, would that help? I don’t mind doing it, even if I am the only one doing it. Things like that have a way of catching on.

And please, folks, give us an update as early as possible. If I can back it down under the sound barrier, I want to do that. Current status and a set of vitals. Blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiratory rate, and a blood glucose is fine. Me personally, I don’t care about a pulse ox- the respiratory rate tells me more.

And no, please don’t start with the 10-whatever. That way I don’t have to ask you “what does that mean?” And you know I will.
DJ - 02/24/10 - 09:39

Oh yeah. I would like to see all the numbers broken down. EMS four-one. Engine two-two. Medic nine-one. Those of you that like that, just start doing it.

One thing that I try to do now, when going to a potential hostile scene based on initial dispatch (shooting, assault, overdose, etc) is to confirm with the dispatcher that LE is en route, and I announce that we will be staging. Hopefully you guys here and pick up on that- most of the time you do.
DJ - 02/24/10 - 09:42

I just heard a pre alert for a structure fire. How nice to have old style dispatching and a person. Even with the 800 system we can still have the pre alerts, at least for fire calls would be nice.
Duffy - 02/24/10 - 10:12

Dale, you bring up a good point about the updates between fire and EMS... I have gotten in the habit of calling EMS over the radio to see what they have recieved on their MDTs, MDCs (whatever), due to the fact that I know EMS is the “Parent” unit on the call and therefore they get the updates first. I love pre-alerts… we used to get them all the time. Now our pre-alert is on the computer screen; could they still be announced over the Dispatch channel? I know that they don’t want to pre-empt Locution on the alert channel, which is why I suggest the Dispatch channel.
Bob P. - 02/24/10 - 10:30

I work in wake and johnston county and I much rather have locution over some JOCO dispatched call anyday when they tell me it is past the big red barn hummm dose anyone know how many red barns there are in JOCO avl and cad is the heat. I got to say if dont complain about what you have because it could be alot worst.
Theycallmebiggen - 02/24/10 - 12:22

Yes DJ, that would be awesome.

Duf, that’s one thing I miss about the human side of dispatching, pre-alerts!! Structural calls only would be nice…..ahhh, to be sitting at the table and hear the radio crackle with “house fire, elm and second”. When that’s your run, silverware clangs, chairs go everywhere and people hustle.
Silver - 02/24/10 - 12:49

I’ll vote for pre-alert on RaleighCentralDispatch1 channel. And a name for the county channel so SOME people quit calling it 3 names. Like Raleigh has “headquarters”...just easier on the ears. Most of you will remember a while back I just started saying “Fire Dispatch” to see if they would answer a 4th name (and if it would catch on). As for numbers broken down, I’ll click the “like” button on that one also.

DJ you shouldn’t have to give us updates based off your MDC that’s someone else’s job. That would be nice though since my concern of not getting the same information as you do in a timely manner will eventually get me shot or stabbed; (if my mouth doesn’t first) because no one wants to spend the almighty dollar on a computer. The thought of EMS or an MDC equipped unit providing said update, “all units responding…” (notice there was no BE ADVISED). DJ, you can guarantee that if I have the radio you’ll get some kind of update-even if it’s just an age, LOC and “taking vitals at this time / WNL”. Of course there are plenty of areas we can all improve on…

Biggen, do you work for JoCo 911?
J.Boggs - 02/24/10 - 15:40

I used to love pre-alerts, now you can’t even call information on the voice pagers or the aphla pagers, usually i scroll down thinking I’m going to see something on it and all I get is the call type again.
079 - 02/24/10 - 18:18

Lacricha has grown on me. It is nice when I get dispatched to a street and she gives me two cross streets. Before, I use to get 2000 capital blvd. Well if not from that district then I would have to grab the map book and find where the 2000 block was. Now I know when dispatched between X-street and x-street.Yesterday,with human dispatch I was getting it sometimes and sometimes I would not. Most of the time Lacricha is consistent.
Smith (Email) - 02/24/10 - 18:22

Smith, good point.
Silver - 02/24/10 - 18:49

I vote for Locution everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. Would like to have updates and the pre-alert though. As stated, here in Morrisville we do have MDT’s. We love them for the most part. The thing we love most about them is the pre-plan program that we have on the computers. When we get a call the map and pre-plan comes up for the structure. That’s nice to have! I am curious why little old Morrisville has them but not a lot of other departments have them? I would think its probably fifty percent monetary and fifty percent priorities.
Maverick - 02/24/10 - 19:12

Mav’, I’d say the monetary part is a huge piece of the puzzle. The city wants them, but that would cost a lot. So, they’re slowly being phased in. I’m sure that pre-plan program is the bees knees….sure it beats flipping through a jumbo notebook with a broken spine and missing pages! We’ll get them, just might take some time, especially now with the economy being so nutty.
Silver - 02/24/10 - 19:38

JB- I know I shouldn’t have to, but if it helps everyone, then so be it. I am all about ANYTHING that makes our job easier and safer.

You know, something I would like to see is some sort of photo display program that will show me a picture of the location I am going. Example- if I am dispatched to 1500 Sawmill Rd, that facility is at the corner of Sawmill and Creedmoor, but MARVLIS takes you quite a ways down Sawmill Rd. A photo, like the ones on the wakegov.com website would be helpful, ESPECIALLY for those ‘rare’ places that do not have numbers posted.
DJ - 02/24/10 - 19:41

Google Street View can do alot of what you are asking for.
It ain’t perfect but if more Public Safety agencies added it as another tool in the toolbox
it might help :)
Marshall Sherard KE4ZNR (Email) (Web Site) - 02/24/10 - 20:36

Man, nothin’ like a good blog thread! How ‘bout that, for 22 consecutive Locution dispatches, and observed by DJ!

Regarding first responder calls to hostile environments, I could see how that could happen. That the fire units don’t get the same information as the EMS units. Probably something like this happens:

1. Call taker enters seemingly non-hostile medical condition into CAD, which generates a call type such as Injured Person.
2. Locution dispatches first responder agency before EMS agency, so a red truck rolls.
3. Meanwhile, call taker continues to gather information, and learns of hostile environment. That’s also entered into CAD, and perhaps the call type is changed to something like Stabbing.
4. Locution dispatches EMS agency, which learns of the hostile environment on dispatch.
5. Meanwhile, a parallel process gets law enforcement en route, due to the new call type.
6. But the first responder, unless updated, doesn’t know they’re headed into hostile territory.

The fix is probably easy enough. If a call has been dispatched, and gets upgraded to “hostile” call type or comments, then the fire/EMS dispatcher needs to update all units with the new information.
Legeros - 02/24/10 - 20:49

Morrisville’s MDT’s have that capability. When we enter a preplan in the system we can enter any kind of photo we want. When we get a call, that pre-plan comes up with any information that we have entered in the system. So we sometimes enter aerial or street views of the structure. Since all of our pre-plans are done by shift personnel it puts all the responsibility on us. We pre-plan ALL of our buildings every six months so we can change the picture if the building or street view has changed. We even have target hazards in the computer for the little bit of rural land that we still cover. We enter closest hydrant, number of tankers needed for a certain fire flow, , structure size, even some tactical information, just like you would do for a business. Those also pop up when you get a call at those houses.
Maverick - 02/24/10 - 21:10

6. But the first responder, unless (verbally) updated, doesn’t know they’re headed into hostile territory.

That’s why I will start updating everyone on my TAC channel. For the record, based solely on MY OWN personal experience, Cary 9-1-1 does a pretty good job of providing the verbal updates. RWECC does get the updates out, but probably due to the sheer numbers of calls going on, maybe verbal updates are not practical.

As a side note, even if the fire units are dispatched after EMS, sometimes they get the info from the original call and not the updates. For example, I was once dispatched to a 26A1 sick call that turned into a serious respiratory with CPAP and all that. We called for the fire cavalry, and they were dispatched as “check-in with EMS”. Fortunately, the captain on the engine (thanks, AC) called us to see what we needed. I don’t know what the solution is.

I think it would be great if EMS could somehow access those preplans where available, but that is a blog for another day.
DJ - 02/24/10 - 21:22

And my explanation is just speculative. I am not a dispatcher, nor been one for nearly two decades.
Legeros - 02/24/10 - 21:24

My only complaint about Locutia is when there is a call for multiple departments or units IE: House Fire Apex E-1, Apex E-2, Apex E-3, Apex L-3, Apex L-4, Cary E-5, Morrisville E-3, Battalion Chief 1. I wish there was a way she could do- Apex E-1, E-2, E-3, L-3, L-4, CARY E-3, MORRISVILLE E-3, Battalion 1. There is no need to hear a department name so many times in dispatch. I have heard the same thing all over county and i believe i have heard it on a RFD dispatch (i don’t monitor that much)
Apex Batt Chief - 02/24/10 - 23:10

It wont be long before you call 911 and get a automated message..
Press 1 if you are dying
Press 2 if you think you are dying
Press 3 if you are trying to die
Press 4 if you are reporting a fire
Press 5 if you are on fire
Press 6 if you are being robbed
Press 7 if you are reporting shots fired
Press 8 if you are still alive right now
Press 9 if you want to hear these messages again…in English
Press 0 to speak with a 911 call taker. Your hold tile is now 4 minutes. Hold while we dispatch because it’s 2010 and we just can’t seem to require our employees to speak strong, clear and consis so we got this darn computer over here and it’s going nuts!

How did we ever make it?
Buckwheat - 02/24/10 - 23:52

Beep. The number you have dialed, nine, one, one, has been changed. To a non-published number.
DJ - 02/25/10 - 00:10

Hey Scoot’, see previous blogs for this solution (county-wide numbering system for units on the same dispatch channel). RIP Mr. Ed…
Silver - 02/25/10 - 00:49

You HAD to go and do it, didn’t you Silver?
DJ - 02/25/10 - 01:07

Hahahahaha!!!! Just sayin’ DJ, in case anyone forgot!
Silver - 02/25/10 - 01:13

Buckwheat and DJ, thanks for keeping an open mind. We need a good laugh from time to time.
jetexas - 02/25/10 - 11:43

Great discussion brethren! Let me address some of the issues raised here.

1. Our first priority is responder safety. If you ever feel you have been dispatched to a dangerous scene without warning, please call the ECC on duty supervisor as soon as possible. We can then immediately review the situation when the facts are at hand. We make no distinction in our concern whether you drive a Pierce, Wheeled Coach, or Crown Vic.

2. We completely agree with your comments on Locution saying “one six” versus “sixteen” and will attempt to teach her to do so. We are preparing to install another version and will examine whether or not that capability is available during that process. In fact, if you have any technical comments or concerns, you can address them directly to ECCIT@ci.raleigh.nc.us. This is open to all MOS, however, we ask that you get departmental approval before suggesting changes. While we’re open to constructive suggestions such as the above, realize the need for standardization and a reasonable amount of control.

3. My only knock against Locution is that during busy periods it can sometimes disassociate a TC from a call. However, without it, we could not do our job nearly as well during these times. It would take more people and likely more channels to free the backlog of calls.

4. As far as personnel go, rest assured that we test them for a lot of things, within the realm of what is allowed by ADA and other regulations. We had 545 applications for our last 12 openings, so you are getting the very best candidates out there.

5. Since I joined the fire service 40 years ago this month, there have been a lot of changes; many of them involving dispatch. There is much more involved in call processing than there was back then, but it is kind of nice to go “old school” for a couple of days. We are probably the most technology reliant center I have ever managed, or maybe even visited, so this is a major event for us. Since we use CAD to track TAC channels, the immediate assignment of these is one of the many things that go away when it is down.

6. Finally, keep in mind that EMS and County Fire have seen the greatest degree of growth, with dispatches increasing for both by more than 82% since 2000. (I can assure you that a similar growth in staff has not occurred.)

Hope this helps to fill in some of the blanks!
[RWECC] (Email) - 02/25/10 - 15:45

One thing I do like about Locution are the random quizzes she gives out by the mispronunciation of certain street names and having to figure it out. Example: E. “Len-wahh” st. (Lenoir)
RescueRanger - 02/25/10 - 21:07

@RWECC Thanks for your continued support of all of the Public Safety agencies Mr. Furey. And thanks for continuing to strive to make RWECC better and better each year.

@RescueRanger—My favorite is still the “Krispy Kreme D-O-U-G-H-N-U-T-S”.
Marshall Sherard KE4ZNR (Email) (Web Site) - 02/25/10 - 21:12

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