Women Assisting Anaheim Dispatching

Women Assisting Anaheim Dispatching


For Anaheim, Calif., fire fighters there is something new when it comes to be awakened to respond to a fire or medical emergency. Instead of the clanging bell and harsh, deepvoiced dispatcher, a woman gives the alarm. Civilian female dispatchers have been added to the communications center on a part-time basis, as vacation relief, illnesses and accidents. All part-time employees are limited to 1000 hours per calendar year.

Wendy Orlow, a Buena Park resident, was one of the first to take the microphone in the headquarters dispatch center about two months ago. She started on the graveyard shift, which meant she was the one to wake the fire fighters when the alarm was sounded. There are normally two dispatchers on each shift.

Mrs. Orlow spent two years with the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department in dispatching. She also worked as a telephone operator for General Telephone Company. Her husband is a supervisor with a burglar and fire alarm company and phones ringing late at night are nothing new around the Orlow household.

“We are pleased with the way the gals have adapted to the dispatching routine,” said Chief James Riley. There are now four women working part-time in the civilian positions.

Instead of a regular 24-hour platoon shift like the fire fighters, the dispatchers work regular eight-hour stints. What happens on the graveyard assignment?

“Well, there’s an average of about five calls a shift–sometimes we’ve had as many as 13 and then things are jumping,’ Mrs. Orlow said. Otherwise, there is a constant flow of clerical work to cope with, reports to file and logs to update.

Since her background was with a police agency, there really hasn’t been anything difficult to learn and most of the calls have been rather routine.

Even Sylvia Minton, another recent addition to the radio room staff, said coordinating the activity of the city’s nine fire stations can get hectic, but it isn’t as exciting as one might think. She was formerly a dispatcher for the La Palma and Cypress police departments. Another radio trainee, Linda Shaffer, is a former Anaheim police cadet.

“I’d like to see this work into a full-time position with either the fire or police department,” Mrs. Orlow confides. “I guess radio code is my second language and I really enjoy the job.

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