National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week honors fire dispatchers' vital role

  • Published
  • By Giancarlo Casem
  • 412th Test Wing Public Affairs

Fire dispatchers play a critical role in emergency response, and this week, communities across the nation are celebrating their dedication and service during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. Initially established in 1981 by the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department in California, the event gained national recognition in 1994 when President William J. Clinton signed Presidential Proclamation 6667, designating the second week of April as NPSTW.

Fire dispatchers, often the first point of contact in emergencies, play a pivotal role in coordinating responses.

"Emergency responses don’t begin until we tell responders what’s going on and where,” said Amanda Fischer. Emergency Communications Supervisor, Edwards AFB Fire and Emergency Services.

At Edwards, Fire Dispatch serves as the central hub for all 911 calls relating to fire, police, and medical services. With a team of dedicated professionals, they manage emergency utility issues, monitor fire alarm systems, coordinate airfield responses, and dispatch hazmat teams, among other responsibilities.

“All dispatchers are Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) certified which is a system of medical questioning that enables dispatchers assist callers over the telephone with various medical conditions. We can talk callers through CPR, AED use, auto-injector use, snake bites, overdoses, etc… and stay on the line with them until responders arrive,” Fischer said. “As a base with a high civilian population, we often attend to medical emergencies for injuries, strokes, heart attacks, diabetic issues, severe allergic reactions, and even childbirth.”

Additionally, EAFB FD provides supplemental response resources to surrounding areas such as Boron, Rosamond, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and California City when mutual aid is requested. The EAFB Fire Department also routinely dispatches additional resources to vehicle accidents on Highways 58 and 14.

Unique to Edwards is in responding to airfield mishaps especially involving test assets.

“Hands-down the number one thing that makes Edwards Fire Dispatch different from municipal fire departments is our unique ability to respond to airfield mishaps. Because EAFB is a test facility, incidents on the airfield happen and we are trained to initiate responses within 60 seconds so that responders are waiting on the airfield for an emergency aircraft landing,” Fischer said. “In the event of an aircraft crash, we are trained to work with our surrounding communities in getting responders to sometimes remote locations for search and recovery.”

Edwards dispatchers face unique challenges as Edwards firefighters must continually adapt their protocols in relation to ever-evolving technology. They also need to relay relevant and timely information to firefighters responding to an emergency.

“The Edwards Fire Department is constantly engaged in updating or changing responses to meet the needs of pilots, ground crews, and changes in everything from chemical compounds used in new developments to potential weapons deployments,” Fischer said.

A typical day for the team at Edwards Fire Dispatch involves maintaining 24-hour operations split into two 12-hour shifts per day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Despite the demanding nature of their work, dispatchers remain dedicated, ensuring seamless emergency communications even during weekends, holidays, and pandemics.

As communities come together to celebrate National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, it's an opportunity to recognize and honor the unsung heroes who play a vital role in safeguarding lives and property every day. Through their dedication and professionalism, fire dispatchers continue to make invaluable contributions to public safety.