Friday, April 30, 2010

from Ugent Communications

911 training legislation is a labor of love

Apr 29, 2010 2:29 PM, By Glenn Bischoff
Would require Florida call-takers and dispatchers to become certified

The state of Florida House of Representatives yesterday unanimously approved a Senate bill that would require newly hired 911 call-takers and dispatchers to compile 232 hours of training before they are allowed to handle an emergency call. The requirement takes effect in October 2012. Personnel hired before then would be required to take a competency exam. Those who fail that exam would be required to undergo the training regimen. The bill also authorizes the use of funds generated by the state’s 911 tax for the training.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ken Roberson, said an investigation revealed that although the majority of 911 calls are handled properly by Florida’s telecommunicators, “hundreds of critical errors that endanger lives” occur every year. He was critical of Florida’s lack of uniform training standards and alleged that some telecommunicators in the state start processing 911 calls within a couple of days of being hired. “This situation is unacceptable and must be rectified,” he said.
The Denise Amber Lee Foundation was a driving force behind the passage of this legislation. The 21-year-old Lee, the mother of two young children, was abducted from her Florida home in January 2008 and murdered. Allegedly, 911 personnel made mistakes on the night of her abduction that hindered search efforts. She was found in a shallow grave two days after her abduction. Her assailant was convicted and received the death penalty.
Mark and Peggy Lee, the in-laws of Denise Amber Lee who are the driving force behind the foundation, said that they were pleased with the bill’s passage and that Gov. Charlie Crist has indicated that he will sign it into law. However, the Lee’s have some concerns. They wonder where the money will be found to conduct the training throughout the state. They say that the state’s 911 fees only cover about two-thirds of the costs associated with operating its public-safety answering points.
They also say that the state is going to have to find a way.
“The call-taker is the first link in the chain, and it’s a pretty important link. If they don’t get it right, you’re not going to get firefighters to fires, EMTs to medical emergencies, or police to an abducted woman who’s in the back of a moving car,” Peggy Lee said. “So, they might have to put off that new CAD system for a year. The best technology in the world is no good if the call-taker isn’t following protocol.”
Compliance is another area of concern. “How do we know that each PSAP is going to comply with the law? We don’t want to see 253 cowboys out there doing this on their own,” Mark Lee said. “We need a stronger state 911 office for oversight.”
The Lees hope that the Florida legislation is but a stepping stone to the foundation’s much bigger goal, which is federal legislation that would standardize training and require certification for 911 telecommunicators nationwide. They said that they have had productive discussions about such a bill with the leaders of the major public-safety communications associations. “There’s a lot more that needs to be done,” Mark Lee said.
Patrick Halley, government affairs director for the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), said that a joint effort with the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials should produce standards that address 911 telecommunicator training and quality assurance, which in turn could provide a framework for the federal legislation that the Lees seek. But he said that such a bill would be a tricky proposition.
“It’s a state-sovereignty issue,” Halley said. “It would be tough for the federal government to tell the states that they have to train, and in a specific way. If anything occurs on the national level, it’s going to have to be creatively done.”
But Halley agrees with the Lees that it needs to be done.“In Illinois, for example, you have to be certified to work in a tanning center or barber shop, but not in a 911 center,” he said. “That has to be resolved. A lot of states do a great job [regarding training], but only a handful of them are required by law to do so.”
The lobbying effort to achieve such legislation has taken a toll on the Lees. Not only have they devoted much time, they also have gone into their own pockets at times. They also have had to endure numerous arrows that have been tossed in their direction. “We’ve been called ‘media whores.’ We’ve been accused of using this as an excuse to take vacations,” Peggy Lee said.
“Believe me, telling this story over and over again hasn’t been fun. We’re spent.”
Despite this, both Mark and Peggy Lee were emphatic that the effort has been worthwhile and that they have plenty of fight still left in them to reach the ultimate goal. The motivation is as simple as it is pure.
“This keeps Denise from dying in vain,” Peggy Lee said. “We’ve often asked the question, ‘Why Denise.’ This is the only thing that we can think of. In doing this, we know that she’s saving lives.”

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's been a while

since I have blogged. We certainly have had a lot going on. I personally have been working a lot more hours than I had been. I work two part-time jobs that pretty much amount to a full-time job without the benefits. So, I have not had a lot of time to keep up with blogging all the news.

It looks as if the 9-1-1 legislation we have been supporting is going to pass. It has passed through the Senate and will be going before the House on Monday or Tuesday. It will be watered down due to compromises that had to be made with sheriff's and police chief associations. Apparently they were "covertly" not supporting the bill for mandatory training due to budget issues. So, the House Representative compromised with them and changed the date of the bill from Oct 2011 to Oct 2012. Ugh! I find that disgusting. That's another year of more tragedies in our state. Why? Because the sheriffs and police chiefs do not know how to prioritize their monies. Two House Representatives voted against the bill! Said it was a unfunded mandate! Hahahahaha! That's ridiculous. We are already paying 50 cents on our cell phone and landline bills. If Senator Bennett's bill passes they'll get even more money from prepaid wireless phones! It disgusts me that their non-support of the bill is behind closed doors. It disgusts me because they are elected officials (the sheriffs and police chiefs) and they don't have the you know what's to man up and do what is right.

Anyhow, I guess we should feel good that we even got it this far. It is better than no bill and no mandatory training.

I do want to thank all the people who worked so hard in doing their best to get something passed. I guess I just do not like politics. I am not a confrontational person. But I am not afraid to speak up when it is something this important. I wish they had left the date alone but... I am trying to understand my best to understand why our legislators felt the need to cave in on the date. I personally do not think it was necessary and the bill would have passed without it. But, I am not a politician and what do I know? sigh

Dear Denise,

It has been a strange and surreal journey losing you. I will never be able to explain to people what your death has meant to our family. What impact it has had. Wednesday night we went to a Victim's memorial for crime victims in Charlotte County. I was wearing your Fix 911 button and Noah's TBall picture button. Noah was curious about the buttons and wanted to wear his. Then he played with your's and his and he had the buttons kiss each other. I said "would you like them to kiss" and he was all excited. All the time this was happening they showed all the crime victims in Charlotte County since 1970 on a large screen. So many murders. Young women, young kids, young men... our future on a screen. Your mom and dad and Nate were there. Adam was a little rascal and would not sit still. Noah was a really good boy through it all and looked forward to placing his rose for you on the wreath with the other roses. I think of those other families all the time. I think of you 24/7. Sometimes I wish I didn't. But I do. I cannot help it. I wish I had gotten to know you better while you were here but honestly, I thought we had years ahead together watching the boys grow. It is just not right that you are gone. And that we had to lose you in order for this much needed legislation to pass. All I know is, that even in Heaven, you are making a difference. I just hope and pray we do our best by your babies. I do love them so much. Noah is a spitting image of you.

Well... I am crying now. I love you and always will. Again tell God we need more people like you down here.



Sunday, April 11, 2010

He was not going to let another tragedy happen

By Todd Ruger

Published: Friday, April 2, 2010 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 9:20 p.m.

SARASOTA - Tim Roe had stopped his work pickup at a red light on U.S. 41, windows rolled down, when he made eye contact with the woman in the passenger seat in the car next to him.

"Please help me, help me," the woman said to him. She tried to get out of the car, but the man behind the wheel elbowed her in the face and held her back.

The man saw Roe grab a cell phone. Then the Dodge Shadow sped off through the red light.

With memories of the Carlie Brucia and Denise Lee murders on his mind, as well as other abductions in the news, Roe decided he had to act.

So he took off after them.

"I've heard so many of these ending in tragedy," Roe said, including when a man abducted 11-year-old Carlie from the car wash he frequently drove past. "I thought to myself, 'If I ever see that myself, I'll deal with it.'"

The Bradenton landscaper floored the accelerator in his Chevy Cheyenne to keep up as the two vehicles sped south on U.S. 41 from University Parkway. He dialed 911.

Traffic was light at 8 a.m. on that Saturday in March of 2009. Even going 80 mph and blowing through red lights, Roe, 49, did not think about stopping.

"If I had seen on the news he had killed her, I don't think I could have slept, knowing I could have stopped it," Roe said in his native British accent. "You have to go on the theory he's going to hurt her."

The suspect car suddenly turned left on Myrtle Street; Roe missed the turn, but cut through a Winn-Dixie parking lot and somehow ended up behind the car on Myrtle. Soon, a Sarasota police car pulled behind Roe's truck.

Roe told the 911 dispatcher that if the officer tried to stop him, he was not going to pull over. The dispatcher said the officer was aware of the situation and was just following to help.

When the Dodge reached U.S. 301, it lost control, and Roe pulled his truck in front, while the officer trapped the Dodge from behind.

The driver of the Dodge, Sergio Ocampos, 25, was then arrested on a false imprisonment charge.

The woman got out of the car and ran over to Roe and gave him a hug.

"She wouldn't let go, and just said, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you,'" Roe said. He was shaking himself from the adrenaline.

Ocampos was upset because the woman, his then-27-year-old girlfriend, had just told him she was pregnant and he was the father, said Assistant State Attorney Jason Miller.

It turned to be a false positive on a home pregnancy test.

Ocampos spent a year in jail before pleading guilty to the imprisonment charge this week, Miller said.

He will be deported to Honduras because of the conviction.

Roe's actions and his willingness to testify -- another witness could not be found -- basically made him a hero in this case, Miller said.

"If it wasn't for him, it might not have been a case and could have had a much more tragic ending," Miller said.

Roe, revisiting the spot of the arrest Thursday, said the police did a great job. And he said he just did what he would want anyone to do if his daughters were in trouble.

"I just did what you're supposed to do," Roe said. "You can replace a truck, but you can't replace a woman's life."