Friday, 19 August 2011

Gossip Monger

It's taken a while to get used to the new radios, not that they've been a bad thing, especially for someone who spends most of their time working solo. Prior to their arrival, the only communication we had with the control room was if we were still in the ambulance or the car. Failing that, we could use our own mobiles or even the patient's phone, sometimes dialling 999 if it was particularly urgent. Summoning police in a hurry often involved one of the crew running back to the ambulance and calling for help whilst leaving their partner facing whatever the danger was. A solo worker was even more isolated. 

There was, however, certainly as the people on the front line, one advantage to the old radios: they were an open channel. As long as you were on that channel, you could hear everything that was going on with all the ambulances in your sector, and therefore it was often the people you knew best. If you heard them calling for extra help, for whatever reason, you could call up and offer that help. Now the channels are blocked. Communications are direct between a radio and the control room. 

The airwaves are silent most of the time, except for the control room sending out "General Broadcasts" advising of calls waiting for ambulances, and other general information. Even these seem to have reduced in number now that they can send messages down the MDTs (mobile data terminals, or, for ease of use, the computer screens on which we get our calls). Communicating to the whole sector is still possible, but is very much frowned upon, except in one instance. If you need help in a hurry. 

On top of the new handsets is an orange button. Press and hold that for a second or two, and everyone else on your channel hears you. No need to push any buttons to talk, your mic is open and hands-free. Everyone else's radios flash bright, and make an alarming sound. In the control room the radio-op has a similar sequence of events and alarm bells sounding. Nine times out of ten, the next words you hear are a crew discussing how upset they are at yet another hospital banning them from the coffee and tea, or some slanderous gossip or rumour, or even someone dealing calmly with a patient. Nine times out of ten, the button has been accidentally pressed, control checks in to make sure that all is well, and nine times out of ten the crew will apologise and spend the next few minutes panicking about what may or may not have been said as the world and his wife were listening. 

A while back, I hit the orange button. On purpose. 

The next words everyone heard were probably a garbled stream, and would have looked good on an old-fashioned Batman TV show: 

"Get off!" "Step back!" THUD "Ow!" SMASH 

"Red Base, I need police on the hurry up!"

"Z751, are you OK?" Control actually sounded a little worried.

"NO!" BANG "I need police! NOW!" "OY, GET OFF!"

I think the magic of the hands-free open-mic only lasts for ten or twenty seconds, so that's probably all they heard. Luckily, probably. Profanities are not welcome across the ether. 

At that point, a crew turned up, not realising what they were about to walk in to, especially as they're on a different radio channel and hadn't heard my calls for help. An innocuous sounding call with little prior information other than the fact that the patient was crying doesn't normally call for any concern. 

The next few seconds, maybe minutes, are a bit hazy. One of the crew waded in trying to help get the patient away from me as the other called again for back-up. Between us we tried to get him down on the floor, both for our safety and his. We failed miserably. In the background I could make out the sounds of several sirens, and a few seconds later half a dozen police officers ran in. 

"Someone call the cavalry?" 

"Er, yes! He's all yours!"

In a blur of arms, legs, handcuffs, swear words, brute force and brilliant technique, the patient, high on illicit drugs and alcohol, was finally subdued and taken into custody. It took all six officers to deal with him, so my pride wasn't too dented by the fact that I couldn't do it on my own. Still, malicious thoughts (often spoken in jest) of using an oxygen cylinder as a weapon came all-too-close to being a reality. 

I drove back to station, covered in my blood and his, uniform ripped and with a sore shoulder and back. On the way back I phoned control to thank them for their prompt assistance and told them that during the events I'd made a new discovery. 

"What's that then?"

"I now know that the orange button isn't just for accidentally spreading gossip!" 

"Well, you say that, but now everyone's talking about you!"



Noise Girl said...

Several times have I wished our orange buttons worked on our radios at work.

We're lone workers 90% of the time, evenings and weekends on Halls of Residence. I attract the violent ones. Be it from drugs/alcohol or psychosis, I've gone to hit my panic button and its not programmed.

Luckily I'm trained in restraint and breaking holds to escape. Thats outside of work training, my colleagues don't have that training.

Your post has reminded me to ask again to get that button programmed into our system. Thanks

manchesteregg said...

ha ha i know exactly what you mean on our old system you could hear the world and his wife with some amusing conjecture on what was said now sadly it just me and control

Luckily for me i am on with a brilliant bunch of dispatchers and we have some brilliant banter however now and then i am abandonded and left with a somewhat uknown entity which leaves it a slow and mundane QUIET shift.

I am pleased to hear that you are ok and the response from control was rapid. Last time i hit the emergency button (albeit in error) it took a cool 7 minutes and 13 seconds for them to check that i was ok (timed it for fun)

Tom said...

Sorry to hear that chap. The only aggro I've had in my time as an HCA is minimal and from dementia patients. Then again the little old ladies have the knack of being able to grab your nads without even looking. That and one vile patient who was with us for a while. Speedy recovery.

TAZ THE AMBO said...

The system was introduced to improve your productivity by reducing radio chatter???? but at what cost to your personal safety. The 8 stations in my area and all their vehicles can hear each other as does any out of area vehicle coming in to help and we required to at least voice the basic location and nature of the job so everyone knows where you are and they may even be closer? The GPS is not always spot on.
Good to hear you were ok.

TOTWTYTR said...

I have to wonder what kind of morons are in charge of your radio system. Sadly, I think I already know. The kind that aren't in the field much, if they ever were.

No portable radios until this new system? When I started in EMS over 30 years ago, we had portable radios. One per unit. Since then we went to two per unit and then one for each person in the service.

That you all can't hear each other is just plain criminally negligent.

Really, your management should fix all of that, but of course they won't because it won't affect them.

And I'm glad you came out of it OK. Which is the important thing. No thanks to your management.

rob said...

Nicely written! Cheers

the_ambu_man said...

I had to use my orange button for te first tme about two weeks ago, a suicidal women, high on emotions, apparently immobile with a broken leg,she really should try out for the 100m Olympic sprint team to speed she managed to run across the kitchen and grab a claw hammer, then come at me with it.

The ornage button worked, the police came and then the hard work came, and i never realised we had access to an ambulance with a police style cage in it...

Nicki said...

Staging is often a teased event here but I am all for it when the call is dispatched as a possible threat. However, when the threat is not foreseen, it can get bad! So glad you are okay! However, it IS in our NYS protocols that a D-Tank can be used as a weapon if needed and I wouldn't hesitate if it was within reach!