Its been a very bad week with the suicide of at least two Firefighters, the Line of Duty deaths of Wilmington Firefighters Lt. Christopher Leach, Firefighter Jerry Fickes and FDNY Deputy Fire Chief Michael Fahy. Our continued condolences to all those suffering due to these horrible losses.
Among so many factors at any working fire are the folks who know about the incidents coming in well before we do-the dispatchers. Mostly known as dispatchers but also communications technicians, telecommunicators, call takers, fire alarm dispatchers-whatever term your area uses-they are the ones that take the call and stay with us throughout the entire incident.
Dispatchers take a beating at many levels. Callers dialing 9-1-1…fire, EMS and police officers on the radio…poor working hours/conditions…poor training…and many other aspects. And EVERYONE knows that they themselves can definitely do a better job than those damn dispatchers.
No so fast, Sherlock.
Until you spend some time on the 9-1-1 call boards actually taking that 9-1-1 call from the woman whose beloved 90 year old husband didn’t wake up…the girl who was just physically assaulted…the Mom whose kid was found caught in the drapery cord…..or the Dad whose kids bedroom is on fire….you have no clue.
Until you are on the radio when some lunatic fire officer is verbally annoyed because the power company has no eta for wires down in a hurricane…until you keep trying to dispatch a volunteer FD that is unable to turn out on a run-with no response….until you have to dispatch 20 different FD’s, 5 EMS agencies and 15 police departments all with “their own” policies….you have no clue.
And until there is a MAYDAY. You have no clue.
We have advocated for years that dispatchers-in their initial and continuing training-should spend some real time in the field riding with the units they will be dispatching for. When your department is training on ICS-the dispatchers should be an active part of the training. When you are doing fire simulations-the dispatchers should be part of that. Dispatchers are an integral part of every fire scene.
We have equally advocated that all probationary firefighters, EMT’s and cops should be required to spend shifts in the dispatch center-right along side those dispatchers-so they fully understand what is done in the field. Anything less creates an “unknown” and we humans pretty much fear the “unknown.”
When Firefighters become Officers and Officers become Chiefs-some “ride along” time in the dispatcher center is critical because that dispatcher truly becomes the incident commanders “right hand” during the best – and worst – moments. Good relations and an understanding of the job can only increase the survivability and leadership of any fireground.
A HORRIBLE WEEK.
In the past week, thousands of dispatchers have done an amazing job-a job we-on the other side of the radio-take for granted. Kinda like turning on a light and expecting electricity or turning on a hydrant and expecting water. We take it for granted-and we really should. There should be systems in place in assure that the stuff will work right. That 9-1-1 will work…that tones will activate…that policies and the dispatchers will anticipate our needs…that fire companies will turnout quickly with good staffing…that when you call on the radio, dispatch answers. You know what I mean.
And while thousands of dispatchers do a phenomenal job everyday, we want to focus on the New Castle County (DE), the NYPD and the FDNY Dispatchers. The New Castle County Emergency Communications Center along with the NYPD’s “Central” Dispatchers and FDNY’s Fire Alarm Dispatchers set the example of professionalism this week for all the world to hear.
It was “the worst day” for those fire departments-and their dispatchers were right there along with them-every second that went by. They knew and did their jobs as you will listen below. They anticipated needs and took actions. They created an environment so that the incident commanders didn’t have to worry about that aspect of the situation.
Listen intently to it all. Pass it on to your Dispatchers no matter who or what agency dispatches your fire department-and to their bosses as well. Force feed it if you have to. These are “must listen” events.
And while investigations are hardly complete, listen to “Battalion 19” on the FDNY audio-as we all know now, the Chief was tragically down-but no one who wasn’t at the scene knew that initially-yet command was never lost thanks to solid Firefighters who were trained to step in – in those “what if” scenarios. Once again, under tragic circumstances, we all have some learning opportunities.
NYPD & FDNY ADIO CONCURRENTLY:
(FDNY 10-Codes: http://www.fdnewyork.com/10code.asp )
(NYPD 10-Codes: http://www.n2nov.net/nypdcodes.html )
WILMINGTON/NEW CASTLE COUNTY:
Our condolences to the families, friends, firefighters, dispatchers, EMT’s, police officers and others who are suffering the loss of Wilmington Firefighters Lt. Christopher Leach, Firefighter Jerry Fickes and FDNY Deputy Chief Michael Fahy. RIP.
Commentary by Billy Goldfeder