I’m afraid it’s the end of an era.
For many years there has always been just one place I could turn to for information about emergency medical services, emergency radio and weather.
I’m sure there are many others who can provide this kind of information, but I’m talking about my personal experience, my times collecting what used to be called Firelog for the Gloucester County Times.
As part of my job, I would travel around Gloucester County most every day, stopping into police stations and writing down information from police reports. Some reports yielded actual news stories. Most were much less important and wound up in Crimelog.
Yes, it was quite time consuming, going through police reports and taking notes. It usually took me all day to do Crimelog.
One of my stops, though, was not a police station, it was the 9-1-1 Center in Clayton. In the beginning, the 9-1-1 center did only fire calls. These days, of course, it handles police calls, as well.
Getting into police stations every day led me to long conversations with police officers and their bosses. This is how I started building relationships with police officers that continue now, 30-some years later.
In those days, the alarm room was one room. Several dispatchers handled calls there. I’d drop in, chat with Kathy and Diane in the front office, maybe one or two of the radio techs, maybe the director or the head dispatcher, then spend some time in the alarm room. It was mostly just conversation, but often, I’d be present when all hell broke loose and I was all rapt attention.
Many of that generation of dispatchers are now gone, retired. Now it’s Ken Lansdowne’s turn.
Ken was there before I was. He was an incredible guy, great resource and became — like many in those days — an actual friend.
Ken knew everything about radio frequencies. Along with Lou Iocona, Ken helped me set up my police radio scanner back in the day and he seemed to have a list of frequencies that was inexhaustible, from local police departments to the drive-through at fast-food joints.
He also was exceedingly knowledgeable on emergency medicine, of course, but then, he was the biggest weather nerd I’d ever meet. He was not only an amateur weatherman, he was a weather archivist. I bet if you asked Ken right now what the weather was on a specific date in the past, he could quickly look it up and tell you.
This part of Ken’s character is where he got the nickname “Lightning.” I mean, we had Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz as a TV weatherman, so I decided we should have Ken “Lightning” Lansdowne right here in Gloucester County.
Now, after 40 years behind the microphone, Ken will dispatch for the last time on Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve day.
I hope Ken has a happy and healthy retirement. You never know where he might turn up now, but his career has been exceptional and unique — we all know Lightning strikes only once.