Good morning and welcome to another Driver Robbie Rant. This one is about a personal bugbear of mine: being rude to the voices that live on the other end of the radio.
We all have to deal with dispatchers, and with anything in life there are good dispatchers and less good dispatchers. However, even if you think they are the worst thing to hit the airwaves since Lord Haw-Haw, there is no need to be rude to them.
I understand why people get frustrated with dispatchers; I get frustrated too. We are out on the road, tired, hungry, stressed, desperate for a toilet break, and they are always there, giving us yet another job. And many of these jobs seem more than a little absurd: Lights and sirens to someone with an itchy knee? (an actual job I was sent to last week) Three ambulances and a fire truck to a drunk 23 year old who is in an “altered conscious state?” (In my drinking days, becoming altered conscious was the whole point…)
It is frustrating as the level of response (and thus risk to us) is disproportionate to the problem.
But the thing is, it’s not the dispatchers fault. They know that the guy with the itchy knee probably doesn’t need a lights and sirens response. They also know that you are tired and hungry and stressed and backed up to the eyeballs. But, they didn’t design the systems they use. They don’t dictate the level of response to jobs. They don’t have the authority to vary the dispatch grid.
Their job is to dispatch the jobs as they come in according to their protocols and work-flows. And if you feel like you have someone watching over your shoulder to see you don’t mess up, you ought to have a look at what these poor buggers have to put up with. Their every key stroke is logged and dissected to make sure they meet KPIs. They are under enormous pressure to get jobs out within ridiculously tight time frames, a job they do damn well for the most part.
Of course when you are busy, they are busy. Everyone who wants to have a chat on the radio holds them up and makes their life more difficult. If it’s something necessary that they can help with (like a callback to get a keycode to access the property you have been sent to) that’s ok. But if it’s something they can’t change (like the coding on a job) then all you are doing is holding them up and making life difficult for them.
Of course, it’s easy for the Comms staff, as they get to sit in an air conditioned office, sipping tea and playing cards, right? Certainly this is what I used to think. I was wrong.
I defy anyone to sit glued to monitors for 10 hours plus, under glaring fluorescent lights, coping abuse from callers and from crews, with jobs racking up in the pending box that they need to find some way of covering and call it an easy job. I can assure that it is often hellish and stressful. When they say “stand-by unless urgent” they aren’t having a sip of tea and a shortbread. They are having to liaise with their team-leader, or the Duty Manager or the Clinician or the police or the fire brigade. There is a great deal to their jobs that we do not see from our perspective behind the wheel of the bus.
So please, don’t take your frustration out on the dispatchers, they are doing the best they can with the system they have to work with. Don’t be snarky, sarcastic or angry at them, even if you feel that way. Take a deep breath and try to be at least polite to them; if nothing else it is just good manners.