The Concerned Citizen

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Subtle Thoughts

911 Staffing Problems Cause Stress, Fatigue, and Sickness.

The Concerned Citizen received several anonymous calls from employeesouc at the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) better known as DC-911, involving complaints of stress and severe fatigue caused by the agency’s on-going staffing problems on the Fire/EMS side of the operation.

Reliable sources, which also includes some low level supervisory personnel, advise that FEMS Ops. employees, routinely work under a management policy that sets the Maximum staffing level at just 6 dispatchers per shift for Fire/EMS which is down from a minimum staffing level of 12 under previous OUC management some years ago and a minimum staffing level of 14 when Fire & EMS operations was actually a division of the DC Fire and EMS department and under the auspices of the Fire Chief.

To further complicate matters, management’s current maximum staffing level of 6 reduces even further to 4 or 5 and sometimes even 3 on a daily basis due to sick and annual leave usage, and when staffing falls below 5, dispatchers on one shift reported that they have to man 2 radio channels at the same time so that fellow dispatchers are able to relieve themselves in the rest room. Fire/EMS dispatchers work mostly under supervisors assigned to police operations who are not trained to handle Fire/EMS incidents and therefore are unable or unwilling to assist when employees need basic relief, and OUC management, or should we say mismanagement seems to support their decision not to act.

Stress levels rise drastically when employees aren’t able to take breaks during a 12.5 hour shift, that’s right 12 and a half hours a day. Who does that? Staffing levels this low, in an operation that requires alert and attentive employees at all times, can spawn a frightening scenario for DC citizens who’s lives and property depend on these employees.

Management at the OUC should be ashamed. Their utter disregard for the health and welfare of it’s employees, which directly affects the District’s citizens and visitors, is nothing short of reckless and will most certainly result in life threatening mistakes due to dispatcher stress and fatigue.

Wow! Twelve and a half hours per shift, 6 am to 6:30 pm or 6 pm to 6:30 am, depending upon individual assignment, with a short change on Sunday. Short change means employees who work the night shift on Saturday, for example, will get off at 6:30 am Sunday morning after working 12.5 hours and then are required to report back for duty at 2 pm Sunday afternoon and work for another 8.5 hours. So, in effect, they probably only get approximately 4.5  hours of sleep before having to report for duty again when you consider time to shower and travel from and back to work.

Is this management’s idea of a conducive work schedule. What happened to the 8 hour shift that’s worked fine for the Metropolitan Police Department and other DC Government agencies for years. The Concerned Citizen thinks that our citizens and the multitude of people who visit The Nation’s Capital every single day would be better served by emergency dispatchers who only work 8 hours per day which leaves an employee plenty of time after a shift to relax, refresh, and rejuvenate before having to report for duty again at what has already been proven to be one of the most stressful jobs in the world.

Hey Mayor Bowser, are you aware that you’ve hired new senior level managers at the Office of Unified Communications who seem to be ok with business as usual? We think it’s time to light a fire under the new guys and get rid of some of those old high school educated, non-productive, operations managers who are making 95 to 110 thousand dollars per year for doing absolutely nothing.

The Concerned Citizen believes that the majority of dispatchers who work the FEMS side of the OUC are dedicated and knowledgeable employees who love their job, they just need an educated, responsible team of supervisors and managers to  lead the way. So why not take a step in the right direction and let structure and professionalism of DCFEMS and the Fire Chief takeover management of Fire/EMS operations at the OUC?

Commentary Posted By: Swansong   “Things that make me go hmmm”

3 Responses

  1. Voice says:

    Is this a government agency? Is there a union in place? If so, why isn’t the union doing something about this. I thought that D.C. Governments agency have a union. Please make sure you have your union work for you, if not, you are a fish out of water

  2. rjmobley says:

    What! You mean to tell me that the Fire Department is not in charge of the people who receive calls and dispatch their equipment to emergencies in the District of Columbia? As a former member of the Fire service in another state, I know that rules and regs. pertaining to emergency fire and ems dispatch change frequently, as do the rules and regs. for fighting fire treating medical emergencies. Dispatchers and call handlers from my former agency attended the training academy on a regular basis right alongside sworn members of the fire/ems service for mandatory new and refresher training each and every quarter of the year because I order to properly dispatch employees need to fully understand what we do out there. Who trains DC’s dispatchers I wonder. Isn’t the Nations Capital supposed to be the best?

  3. Jillian says:

    We thought the fire department was in charge of 911. Maybe we have been blaming the wrong agency for mistakes made by the people who receive and dispatch our calls. I wish the mayor would correct this problem, St. James is a community in SW full of elderly citizens who often need 911 services and we expect dispatchers to be vigilant. Give it back to the DCFEMS like the persons who wrote this article suggests.

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