Forum Asst. Chief
You're absolutely right. They have an obligation to refuse to do it and to seek legal counsel if they are threatened with termination because of it. My point is that the people who are making this shifts 24 hour shifts should be sued into oblivion, lose their jobs, and not be trusted to act in the public's best interest ever again, because they are obviously incapable of doing so.I think the blame is shared. I do agree that 24 hour dispatch shifts seem unreasonable, and I pity those that have to work them. That said, there's a level of responsibility that comes along with the job - people's lives literally hang in the balance in many cases. (Not to mention the PR issues an event like this generates. I highly doubt the people of Maryland are as confident in their EMS system now as they were before.)
There is no preparation for a 24 hour shift. Your mind and body is not capable of remaining sharp for 24 hours without the assistance of drugs, and thus 24 hour shifts for dispatchers who unlike EMS pros do not get the opportunity to nap during their shift, should be illegal as all get out. I can't believe this actually occurred somewhere.If you know you're going to be working a 24 hour shift, prepare yourself so that you're NOT falling asleep on the job. That means different things for different people, but could include altering your sleep schedule in advance, using natural and artificial stimulants (caffeine anyone?), ensuring adequate lighting, and asking for help from coworkers and supervisors in staying alert. If push comes to shove and you don't think you can handle the shift, tell your supervisors before the shift starts and find alternate arrangements rather than trying to "tough it out". (Not saying that is what this individual tried to do, just generalizing.)
Perhaps this is the wake up both parties needed: the administrators to examine changes to their shift schedule, and dispatchers to prepare themselves better for 24 hour shifts until those changes come into effect.
Being sharp and alert is completely different than sleeping. I've remained awake for longer than 24 hours on numerous occasions through my life, in a variety of environments. Yes, near the end my decision making was slower and significantly more laboured, but I was still able to function and make rational choices.There is no preparation for a 24 hour shift. Your mind and body is not capable of remaining sharp for 24 hours without the assistance of drugs
I strongly suggest you look into the militaries literature on sleep deprivation. I believe over 20 hours of wakefulness is equivalent to a BAC of 0.06. Still comfortable that your making good, rational decsisions?Being sharp and alert is completely different than sleeping. I've remained awake for longer than 24 hours on numerous occasions through my life, in a variety of environments. Yes, near the end my decision making was slower and significantly more laboured, but I was still able to function and make rational choices.
The issue here is that the dispatcher actually fell asleep, not that they took longer in doing their duties, or made a mistake that was a direct effect of their lack of alertness.
While both can have significant impacts on response times and ultimately patient care, they are still two separate things. One is completely understandable under the circumstances, the other just isn't acceptable, especially in such a position.
Ultimately the upside to this situation, as we both pointed out, is that it will hopefully bring change to the system in Maryland, for the betterment of everyone involved.
Where I live, 0.06 is under the legal limit to drive. While there are are obviously impacts, if you can drive, you can still make rational decisions at a relatively high level.I strongly suggest you look into the militaries literature on sleep deprivation. I believe over 20 hours of wakefulness is equivalent to a BAC of 0.06. Still comfortable that your making good, rational decisions?
Go to work with a 0.06. Get in an accident or make a medical error. See how it works out for you.Where I live, 0.06 is under the legal limit to drive. While there are are obviously impacts, if you can drive, you can still make rational decisions at a relatively high level.
My point is again is the expectations of the role. One can't be expected to remain 100% alert after 24 hours, but whatever state they are in is still more alert and capable than sleep.
I completely agree. And in this situation, if an error or a lapse in judgement occurred as a direct result of the length of the shift, I would fully expect the employer and administrators to be held responsible for what happened.Go to work with a 0.06. Get in an accident or make a medical error. See how it works out for you.
Your held to a higher standard while on duty.
No, I read you loud and clear and I agree. The only thing that kind of mitigates some of the negligence on the dispatcher's part, in my eyes, is the fact that he/she quite probably would have to fear for their job if they did not attempt that shift length, which obviously is routine for them. All I'm saying is that it is completely unacceptable.I completely agree. And in this situation, if an error or a lapse in judgement occurred as a direct result of the length of the shift, I would fully expect the employer and administrators to be held responsible for what happened.
Again, I'm not defending the shift length, or the company/organization that required it. I'm simply saying that in this situation, I do think the dispatcher has to share some of the blame.
Note: I wish I could edit my original post in this thread, as I think it comes across a bit differently than I intended.
Truth..You beat me to it. I used to dispatch fire/ems for a moderately busy center and we were capped at 16hours with a mandatory 16 hour rest time afterwards. After 16hours on a concole we left mentally fried and exhausted. napping wasnt allowed.you know, there are a couple of problems with the situation. And as a current dispatcher, I can see this happening, and a very preventable issue.
I'm going to make some assumptions about the situation. To start, the dispatcher was dispatching for a FD, which had traditionally worked 24 hour shifts. So the FD traditionally works 24 hour shifts, it only makes sense that the fire dispatcher works 24 hour shifts too right? probably had the same rotation too, so it used to be the FD probably had a firefighter acting as dispatch, and the crew all rotated with one person serving as dispatch at one time, and now that position has been replaced with a civilian. but kept the 24 hour shifts. So the 911 operator (PSAP) takes the call, determines it to be fire related and transferred to the fire dispatcher.
As was already mentioned, being an emergency dispatcher is much different than being a field provider. 24 hours is easy to do on a fire engine, because you have time to wake up and shake lose the cobwebs, and you get sleep time (in a bed!!!). yes, there are some busy times, but you aren't expected to be on full performance for 24 consecutive hours. Most EMS agencies have realized that isn't good for busy systems, and cap you at 12 hours, because after 20 hours your brain can't function at 100%. Slow agencies are ok, but those busy ones? hell no.
Every wonder why you never see police officers working 24 hour shifts? even 12 hours is rare, 10 and 8 hour shifts are much more common. it's just had too busy, and too rough on the body and mind when you are expected to be functioning at 100% for 24 consecutive hours.
also, a dispatcher is expected to go from "standby" to 100% in under 3 rings of a telephone. that's 5 seconds at the most. not the minute or two and the drive to a scene for a fire or EMS responder. and by standby, I mean anytime they aren't talking on the phone or radio, where they can be sleeping, eating, watching TV, reading, typing online, doing anything not related to emergency operations. How many people do you know can go from sleep to awake and functioning at 100% in under 5 seconds? no shaking the cobwebs out, a quick rub of the eyes, and ready to do your job? after sleeping in a chair?
any dispatcher that is working 24s is being set up to fail by management. The entire upper management should be fire. I can't even fault the dispatcher, because how can you fight nature? yes, excessive stimulants can help you survive a 24, but it's not a good idea (and yes, I have done it, and it's not worth it).
while I have no doubt the admin will hang the dispatcher out to dry on this, the real blame lies in the administration for sticking their dispatchers with 24 hour shifts.