Liability is a major topic for dispatchers. In most states, if not all, you, the dispatcher, can be sued. You can be sued both as an employee (the plaintiff sues your organization) AND as an individual for damages. That means if you are found liable, you are going to be paying the plaintiff God knows how much money in this day and age. So, the name of the dispatching game is cover your butt (we usually refer to it using a three letter word.)
Basically, this can be done by using one key tool: common sence. If (lack of) common sence is a personal problem to you, watch out. From personal experience, these types of dispatchers tend to expose themselves to liability more often. That's not to say that other dispatchers don't expose themselves to liabitity, we're all human, we all have bad days. But if exposing yourself (not like that, pervert, to liability) is a habit, then eventually you will get burnt.
First thing, cover all the bases. If you just took (or are in the process of taking) a call for a domestic, and it sounds like it could be a real bad one, overreact. Send an ambulance even if they don't go in until the police arrive. I find that overreacting will NEVER get you into trouble. The problem is underreacting. Underreacting is where the liability floodgates open.
Sometimes dispatchers take it upon themselves to make decisions that they shouldn't make. For example, a dispatcher recieves a call for a subject complaining of chest pains. Now this dispatcher has sent the ambulance to this house fifty times before, all for the same complaint. The dispatcher knows that it is not much more than indgestion, or maybe the caller is faking to get attention. Regardless, because the dispatcher knows the person, who has had the same complaint over and over again (this is fictional, but there are MANY people like this caller), s/he deciedes to send the ambulance with the flow of traffic (like everyone else on the road) instead of code (lights and sirens). Of course, the one time the dispatcher takes matters into his or her own hand is the time that the caller will really be having a heart attack. So the ambulance arrives, finds the caller dead, or close to it. They rush the patient to the hospital where efforts to revive are unsuccessful. This is when the dispatcher starts attempting to rationalize the liberties that were taken. Moral of the story - don't take liberties, and don't underreact. In fact, for most cases, if you follow these two ideas you should be pretty safe. However, these are just starting points, athough major ones. There are other steps to prevent liability.
This is where I start sounding mean. The last key theory that I will discuss is this - If you can transfer the liablitiy onto someone else, DO IT!! Don't hesitate to relay information that you should! By this I mean that if there is an ongoing incident that officers are tied up on, and another call comes in that seems less serious but will require a responce, tell the officer responcible or the person in charge. Let the other people make the decisions weather to respond or not - liability goes from you to them. As a dispatcher, unless you are trained to do so, you should not make major decisions. Minor decisions, maybe, but not major ones. Those should be left to someone else, (usually the brass), let it be their rear end on the hotseat, not yours.
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