911 Center Answers Call During Emergencies
August 10, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--They receive the calls that everybody dreads.
These are the emergency calls that require immediate response from police, fire or ambulance. The 911 Center is operated by Tyonek, the contractor since 2007. They’re the reassuring voice at the other end of the phone line when something’s very wrong.
“They’re doing a fantastic job over there,” Richard Wall, operations officer at the Directorate of Emergency Services, said.
Vicki Brewer is the project manager for the Redstone center. “We take 911 calls for police, fire and ambulance and provide firefighters and policemen,” she said.
It does the same things as the Madison County 911 center, which is larger. It primarily serves the people of Redstone, whether they’re the tenants, residents, military or employees.
The dispatchers receive fire alarms, trouble alarms, traffic accidents, traffic stops and more.
“We’re the calm voice on the phone or the radio when everything else is chaotic,” Brewer said.
When someone on post dials 911, they answer the call and get important information from the caller.
“We’re going to ask them what is the location of your emergency; what’s going on there, if they say it’s a medical call; we’re going to ask for their phone number just in case we get disconnected. At that point we’re going to be sending help,” Brewer said.
Often the caller will get agitated because he or she mistakenly believes the dispatcher is the one who will be going to the scene. The dispatcher stays on the line asking questions so the actual responder will know what the situation holds, what equipment will be needed and more so they’ll be better able to help the people requiring assistance. They follow the calls until the situation is resolved and can pursue other resources if necessary.
“When you do dispatch you have to be prepared for everything because you never know what the next call is going to bring,” Brewer said.
The call could be the major fire at a building April 4, which happened on second shift (after 4 p.m.). After the call came in, they dispatched it within 28 seconds “which was phenomenal,” Brewer said.
And April 27 brought Alabama’s deadly tornadoes which devastated the entire community. The dispatchers were all affected in one way or another by the storms, which created power outages lasting several days. Two had damage to their homes.
“When you work in emergency services you’re always affected by something like that because it could be your home, it could be your family’s home, it could be somebody you know,” Brewer said.
When snow closed the post in January, she and two of her dispatchers were the only ones who could make it in to work. They stayed at the center from that Sunday through Tuesday. Two would work in at least 16-hour shifts while the third slept on the cot in Brewer’s office. “And if you can sleep on an Army cot, you are tired,” she said.
The center is fully staffed 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The 10-member staff includes Brewer and nine full-time dispatchers; and Brewer will dispatch too if needed. All are highly trained. The center operates three eight-hour shifts per day, so there are always two people per shift each day. The operation is year-round, including holidays. “The police, fire and ambulance don’t get to sleep on holidays,” Brewer said, “so neither do we.”
Brewer, Tammy Stewart and Karen Mueller were the ones who worked through the snowstorm. The other dispatchers include Kelly Duffie, Brandy Bray, Justin Woodard, Kirstie Young, Lisa James, Monica Carnes and David Taylor.
“When you work in this kind of work, every day has a purpose,” Brewer said. “Every day there is somebody we can help in one way or the other.”
Stewart is one of the original four-year members. After the tornadoes, she couldn’t get into her house because of flooding, but fortunately her home wasn’t damaged.
“I love it,” Stewart said of her job. “I’ve been dispatching for quite some time. And I enjoy providing things for units that respond " doing the grunt work, I call it. And I like the people that I dispatch. I also like providing information, helping the caller, because people call 911 for a reason.”