Fire, Fire, Fire

A random picture from my desk
     I'm a TV news producer.  I've been on duty for everything from shootings and car crashes to explosions, fires and drownings-- especially on the graveyard shift. There are some gross, unbelievable and scary things that happen to people between the hours of midnight and 4 in the morning. A lot of breaking news is called in by viewers or tipsters. The goal is to get the story before it his the "wires" where every news outlet will see it. In these Hi-tech times twitter, Facebook and email are our window into the breaking news of the moment. But, still until this day there is an old relic that manages to still show its worth. I don't know how long police scanners have been stationed in newsrooms but I bet they aren't leaving any time soon. Sometimes, the most accurate indicator that a story is a big deal is through our scanners. You can tell by how often your hearing about one particular incident that this is what you need to pay attention to. Dispatchers are usually pretty even keeled and calm. But, the firefighters responding to the call are the ones really in the thick of it-- and you always hear it in their voices.


    To understand how easy it is to pick up the excitement in and officer's voice, I need to paint a picture of the newsroom at 1,2,3 o'clock in the morning. There are more than 30 or 40 cubicles for both producers and anchors spread out across the room. Only two of those desks are occupied (some mornings only one.) The only sound that breaks the monotonous click-clack of my fingers on the keyboard are the late night infomercials and the scanners. I'd be lying if I told you that I listen to every single call or even respond to every call that comes over the scanners. Usually I'm listening for the unusual. For one, most scanner chatter is very short with just essential details- address, the emergency, and who is responding. So it's hard to pick up. I wish I could remember every key phrase that grabbed my attention to a breaking news story. The latest was a deadly fire in New Haven. Three young lives cut short. The key phrase was.. "reports of people jumping out of the second floor." It may seem weird but I immediately start thinking "multi-family homes are usually 3 stories. I hoped the 3rd floor got out. They didn't. Then when firefighters got there the call of "heavy fire in the second floor stairwell." no way to the third floor. Then repeated calls to get a fire hose or line charged so they could get water on it. Those calls were intense. Their voices intensified by the need to be louder than a fire truck engine a raging fire and their breathing apparatus. The scanners are a brief window into what that officer or fireman is going through right then. Each story is unique. People tell stories, "officials" confirm them, we report them.

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