A friend of mine, Elaine O’Brien recently moved from Orange County, California to Fort Riley, Kansas. I asked her for her ideas about the differences in radio procedure specifically codes. This is her answer. Get your smile on–it’s very funny!
Hi Thonie! Hope you had a great Christmas! I am enjoying all of your writing and so glad things are going well for you in that area!
As for differences in dispatching here, Lots is different. If you remember, I worked at a fire only dispatch Orange County Fire Authority. We used plain talk on the radios, but we did have some 10-4s, 10-22s and 5150’s thrown into the mix. When we used phonetic spelling it was the military alphabet.
When I came to Fort Riley Fire and Police dispatch, they also said they were plain talk, but I found that because the police force is a mixture of civilian and military officers, there is a grab bag of codes thrown into the mix. We also have personnel from all over the US so that means that we hear a different mix of radio codes, which is why they are supposed to use plain text. The civilian officers us the police phonetic, (Adam, Boy, Charles), and of course the military uses their phonetics, (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie). It makes for some interesting phonetics today because they get intermingled and sometimes the soldiers can’t remember the correct phonetic so they make one up. Today I got a tag that read something like this: “Riley, I have a Florida Tag that reads, Alpha-boy-123-Sierra…” and the mike stayed keyed up for a moment as he searched for the proper phonetic to finish off his plate, he finally came up with the only thing that popped into his head, “….Penelope!” I was dying with laughter at this point and had to compose myself before I could key up. Of course, he remembered the correct phonetic before I could get ahold of myself and keyed up frantically saying, “Pa Pa, I meant Pa Pa!” I keyed up and told him I liked Penelope better and read him his result!
Dealing with the NCIC [National Crime Informations Center is the go-to federal agency for law enforcement inquiries about criminal records] is also a challenge. Again, we deal with drivers from all over the US and some with foreign licenses as well. Each state has a different data base in the NCIC so the returns are all different. New Jersey just says “dropped” for the status sometimes. ???? Turns out that means they are ok. Louisiana today had one that said, ni donor for status and below that it listed a tag # and said REVOKED. I had to call a police dispatcher for a translation and that meant that he had No Insurance on file, was an organ donor and that the vehicle that was registered to him had its registration revoked. Bottom line, is this a valid drivers license? YES! Wow.
Back to codes, most of the codes I hear are 10 codes, but again each state uses them a bit differently. Many of the soliders and civilian officers mix up 10-27, (drivers license) 10-28, (license plate) and 10-29, (wants and warrants). Many also do not know the difference between a 10-29 and an NCIC III. Again, this is why they are supposed to use plain speak.
There is also a difference in some laws on a military installation versus the “real world”. You can receive a ticket for not having current registration in the real world on the first day after it expires. But, at our installation, and ONLY our installation, if you get caught at the gate, it is a verbal warning and you are sent on your way, HOWEVER, if an officer pulls you over on the installation AFTER you have passed the gate, you get a ticket and have to park your car until you have proper registration. Can you say confusing boys and girls?
The fire departments does not try to use codes at all but the ambulances do. They have “CODE_____” as a triage code for the severity of the patient. Code green, means they are good, Code yellow means they are moderate, and Code red is severe. Code orange is crazy, no one here had heard of 5150 [refers to the Welfare and Institutions Code for 72 hour mental observation] until the country song came out. I had to explain to them that code yellow to me meant I had to pee! [Smaller agencies lack the staffing for potty breaks and rely on officers to come in from the field for relief. That was always a problem for me at Bishop PD. Smart aleck officers used to toy with me on the radio to force me to say that I had to go potty. Brats. I was always at their mercy.]
I could probably go on and on, but I will just send this and let you see if it is the type of stuff you are looking for.
Take care and I will talk to you soon!
Elaine has opted to forgo the photo, but here is her bio:
I dispatched for Orange County Fire Authority from 1995 until 2009. OCFA is a large agency that handles fire and medical calls for the greater part of the Orange County area. OCFA also provides emergency medical dispatching to the public as well as acting as a regional coordinator for major brush fires and incidents in the Orange County area. Dispatchers are required to work 24 hour shifts the same as the fire fighters.
In 2009 I was in need of a change of pace and moved to Abilene, Kansas and began working at Fort Riley Police and Fire. My skills from OCFA both helped and hindered my switch from a public agency to a Federal Military Installation. It wasn’t long before I knew, I wasn’t in California any more!