The Fan Hates Me

Heidi DiGennaro

Walk into any dispatch center and ask, “Who’s the black cloud?” Everyone knows who the black cloud is—they know that when that person is working it’s going to be a wild ride, and that person is either proud or reluctant to claim the title.

For those not familiar with a black cloud, this is the poor soul chosen through no fault of their own to be the recipient of a proverbial “poop hits the fan” almost every time they work. For some reason, black clouds invite trouble. Black clouds have the printer run out of toner just by looking at it, the radio quits on them, the computer crashes, they attract the oddballs and one-off situations, and they are most likely to have drama on a simple alarm call. Put two black clouds together and you have a giant cluster of a day. Three black clouds and it’s time to put in a leave slip and go home.

I am a black cloud. The Fan hates me so much it loves to smack me often. Sometimes it will find things that would never happen or should never happen to use to splatter me. This isn’t my ego talking or me boasting; this is fact. Ask any of my co-workers. The first time I was EVER in charge the CAD crashed in the first hour. I called our CAD administrator; she said “Oh Sh-! I’ll be right there.” It was Christmas Eve. That was my introduction to being in charge.

When I was promoted to supervisor, I once had an entire week of absolute madness. In February. It was so bad that members of the administration named me the Queen of Death and Destruction, a name I have earned and maintained many times over. I would love to be dethroned, yet I am the Queen and the Drama Mama, chaperone to Madness, Mayhem, and Drama. When I train on the bad stuff, it happens within a week. I trained my shift on severe weather operations … and we had severe weather. I trained on aircraft emergencies … and we had one. I trained on trains … and we had one. The Fan hates me.

Why should you care if I am a black cloud? Because I found a way to fight The Fan and the black cloud by using training to create my umbrella to minimize Fan spray. If you are the black cloud or work with a black cloud, train yourself. You know when the mess comes, it’s going to punch you in the face, circle back around, and slap you again. Knowing what to do will make it easier to get through when The Fan splatters. Instead of it being a river of mud trying to drown you, knowledge of policy, procedure, and protocol can make it a trickle easily stepped over. What’s the protocol for Active Assailant? Learn it before it happens. What are the Rules and Axioms for train derailments? It pays to study it in advance.

Training can be done individually or with others. Talk through what you would do if something big happens. Think it through yourself. Read over plans, policies, and protocols. Make a game out of it. Sometimes creating a word search or having someone make a crossword can force you to learn. Create multiple choice quizzes. Put a candy prize for whoever guesses the most answers or buy yourself that forbidden treat if you can answer a quiz successfully. Co-workers can make hard puzzles for you because we like to see you work hard at it, and it’s distracting during long midnight hours to make them up.

Black clouds will always exist in a dispatch center. The Fan will always give someone a good splatter because it’s the nature of our work. The question is how well can you train yourself to fight the splatter and come out (mostly) clean? One thing to keep in mind is you can be the worst black cloud—or in my case the Queen—and people will say, “So-and-so’s a black cloud, but they know their stuff.” That’s a huge compliment because it means your co-workers respect your abilities to handle the bad stuff. If you have any questions on training methods, contact me at hadigennaro@harfordpublicsafety.org.

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