9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Where Do I Get That?

Excerpts taken from Public Safety Communications Magazine February 2005
Co-written by T.G. Mieure and Mary Messamore, Life members of APCO International

"911, what is your emergency?"

"Please, hurry!"

"What's the problem?"

"My co-worker was working in a trench and it caved in on him."

"Where are you?"

"We're at a construction site on Main Avenue between 1st and 2nd Streets."

You are the telecommunicator dealing with this situation and the only one on duty. Your town has a population of 5,500. You have only one police officer on duty and the local fire department is all volunteer. You find out the victim is up to his abdomen in soil and having a hard time breathing. You send your police officer and tone out the fire department.

Your volunteer fire unit arrives and starts the rescue. The fire chief tells you he needs a backhoe, some lumber and steel beams for shoring up the site and a pump to siphon off water, as the trench is slowly filling. Where do you get these items? Time is critical, because with every minute that goes by, the soil is pressing on the victim and affecting his breathing even more.

Start asking this question now: When disasters occur, what are my resources? Many agencies have disaster plans in place, but how many telecommunicators know them? Have they even read them? Were they included in the planning process?

Back to our scenario. Where do you get a backhoe? Is there one on an adjoining construction site? If so, can anyone operate it? If not, whom should you call? You can try public works or the county or state highway departments. If these are not available, your local yellow pages could be the next resource. Look for contractors, contractor's equipment suppliers, rental services, etc. Don't worry about who is going to pay for what. Just get the equipment there!

On to the lumber. If the town of 5,500 has a lumberyard close by, that would be the best choice, depending on the type of lumber the chief requested. What are other resources for lumber you can find?

The steel beams may be harder to obtain. Go back to the yellow pages and look up welders. They may have a short supply of metal, again depending on what the chief required.

The last item on the list is a pump. Again, public works or county or state highway departments may have one. If not, again, look for a company that rents pumps. Note: A small pump may not be sufficient in this instance, so you may have to ask the chief what kind and how big a pump he needs.

Depending on the incident, you must broaden your thought processes to include non-agency entities or businesses. Too often, public safety personnel rely on traditional resource outlets. If a resource is not readily available, don't panic or you may pass up a non-traditional opportunity.

Try a crane service or any company that lists equipment such as bulldozers and other heavy equipment, modular home manufacturers or home supply businesses. Never pass up a resource, no matter how ridiculous it may sound. The old saying "think outside the box" holds true when it comes to resources and disaster mitigation.

The faster you find a resource and get it enroute, the faster a situation can be mitigated.

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