Archive 2008 - 2019

On duty 24/7….

by Ken Henderson

Holliston is once again fortunate to have another team of highly trained personnel who are invisible to most of us; the dispatchers at the Central Fire Station. Always ready, 24/7.  And it’s not just sitting, waiting for the phone to ring either!  When we make that call for HELP, they are prepared. The dispatcher is trained and certified in a variety of skills and knowledge areas.  You can be sure; they’ve had a wide array of calls. Not just cats in a tree! Besides being a good listener, Chief Cassidy looks for dispatcher candidates that are calm in crisis. Firefighters or EMT’s make good dispatchers bringing their experience gained on the job to the dispatcher’s desk.

Dispatcher Keith Knowles is at the ready to answer the call.

Once trained and certified, dispatchers become the link between the need of the caller and “dispatching” of the appropriate crews. The calm, trained, dispatcher gets the who, what and where and call-back information from the caller.  Then, decision time - what type of response is needed? You have multiple engine companies, several ambulance crews, support from ALS (advanced life support), surrounding towns and MedFlight helicopters all at your disposal.  The dispatcher is at the command center and sends out signals via radios for on-call crews to respond. Minutes are critical. All over town, responding crew members drop what they’re doing to answer the call to help someone else. Both fire and ambulance crews have excellent response times with trucks rolling within minutes of the call. While in route, dispatchers keep informing the crews of helpful information as to what to expect at the scene, routes to take, location of fire hydrants and anything else to expedite quick responses.

Educationally, dispatchers must recertify every two years by studying online and in classes that address many areas for responding to the public and knowing protocols for making informed decisions.  Sending aid to someone in need is both rewarding but can be stressful at times. Multiple calls at the same time occur more often than we might think. Deciding quickly what to deploy and reassuring the caller can get hectic. Guiding a person on the phone to administer CPR takes real expertise and patience. Other calls involve contacting DPW, electric and gas companies or animal control as the situation demands.  The possibilities keep coming.  It isn’t a dull job when the phones start ringing. Within the department, stressful incidents need debriefing to benefit crew members it has affected. Serving others can take a toll on our Fire and Emergency Services personnel and taking care of our own builds a stronger department.  Dispatchers have to be ready to answer that call with confidence and training knowing they are there to serve. 

Thanks for being there for us.

Chief Cassidy added, "Thanks for emphasizing the good work our personnel do every day, without much acclaim. April 14-20, 2019 is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week (also known as Dispatcher Appreciation Week)."

Comments (1)

Insightful article. Thank you for highlghting this important function.

Shaw Lively | 2019-04-17 09:25:33