CRESA Always Here, Always Ready

Posts by Eric Frank

Celebrating the 4th in Clark County

The Fourth of July is a big deal here in Clark County and many love to celebrate Independence Day with lavish fireworks displays. Unfortunately,  the careless and perhaps unwelcome use of fireworks can lead to problems.  Quite often people will call 911 for help in resolving these problems.

Here are frequently asked questions about fireworks we get at our 911 center and some guidelines for when its best to call 911:

When are they legal??

  • June 28 – July 3rd 9 am – 11pm Woodland and Yacolt
  • July 3rd: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Battle Ground. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. in La Center
  • July 4th: 9 a.m. until midnight everywhere EXCEPT within the City of Vancouver
  • July 5th: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m Woodland. 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Yacolt.
  • Fireworks are Illegal at all times within the City of Vancouver City Limits.

What about the big noisy ones?  Aren’t they illegal?

Nope. Even the fireworks that rattle your windows and set off your car alarm are legal.

What about the ones that shoot clear up into the sky? They must be illegal.

Nope – most of those are legal too

Here is a guide for identifying illegal fireworks and explosives.

Here’s a legal overview of state fireworks regulations..

What if someone is shooting fireworks “dangerously”?

It depends on what you mean by dangerously.  Is life or property at risk?  If yes, call 911.

My pets and livestock are being traumatized by the noise!

Fireworks can be traumatic for animals.  If your pet has issues with loud noises please contact your vet for solutions to keep them calm.

Here’s a good article about helping your pet cope with fireworks.

So when can I call 911?

  • If there is a fire
  • If there is an injury
  • If someone is recklessly using fireworks and putting lives in danger
  • If people are being reckless and putting others in danger
  • If fireworks are still going off after midnight

Do Not Call 911 –

  • Because your neighbors are setting off fireworks
  • Because it is 10:30 PM and you need to get up early tomorrow
  • The noise is upsetting your animals
  • If someone is using fireworks illegally within the City of Vancouver limits please call 311 or 360-693-3111 where you will be asked to provide in progress reporting, location information.

** The same dispatchers that answer 911 answer 311… Please help keep these lines open for immediate emergencies.

Fireworks Shows within Clark County

Clark County 4th at the Fairgrounds

Fort Vancouver’s Fireworks Spectacular

The Heat Is On… The Way!!

Hot Temperatures are expected over the next couple days.   As our temperatures soar into the 90’s for the first time this year, we want to share tips in keeping yourself, friends, family and pets safe during this latest heat wave hitting the Pacific Northwest.  

A few tips on keeping Family, Friends, and pets safe

  • Stay indoors and in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible unless you’re sure your body has a high tolerance for heat.
  • Drink plenty of fluids but avoid beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine or a lot of sugar.
  • Never leave any person or pet in a parked vehicle.
  • Check frequently on people who are elderly, ill or may need help. If you need help, arrange to have family, friends or neighbors check in with you at least twice a day throughout warm weather periods.
  • Make sure pets have plenty of water.

If you go outside

  • Plan strenuous outdoor activities for early or late in the day when temperatures are cooler; then gradually build up tolerance for warmer conditions.
  • Take frequent breaks when working outdoors.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sun block and light-colored, loose-fitting clothes when outdoors.
  • At first signs of heat illness (dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps), move to a cooler location, rest for a few minutes and slowly drink a cool beverage. Seek medical attention immediately if you do not feel better.
  • Avoid sunburn: Use a sunscreen lotion with a high SPF (sun protection factor) rating.

But even on hot days, many rivers and lakes in Southwest Washington remain cold.

  • Cold water − especially when high or swift − can immobilize even the strongest swimmer in minutes.
  • Know the water: Washington waters are cold enough to cause hypothermia even on the hottest summer day. Hypothermia can weaken even strong swimmers.
  • Know your limits: drowning often occurs when a swimmer tires.
  • Wear a life jacket when swimming anywhere without lifeguards or whenever you boat, jet ski, go tubing or do other water sports.
  • Ensure children wear lifejackets. Inflatable toys and mattresses will not keep children safe. By law, children 12 and younger must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket or vest on all vessels 18 feet or smaller.
  • Never leave children unsupervised in or near water, even for a minute. Drowning can happen swiftly and silently. Supervision requires complete attention, even if other adults are present.
  • Always avoid alcohol when swimming or boating.

Looking for Places to Stay Cool?

  • Check out local malls, restaurants, theaters and shops, libraries, and community recreation centers.

Celebrating Volunteers

Each year, during April we like to celebrate volunteers in our communities. We especially like to recognize those groups that support Public Safety. Many of these groups fall under what is known as Citizen Corps, a program that helps provide training to individuals living in the United States to assist in the recovery after a disaster. Each local Citizen Corps Council partners with organizations, volunteers and businesses to organize responders, volunteers and professional first responders for an efficient response so efforts aren’t wasted by being duplicated.

Citizen Corps encourages citizens to engage in a number of activities to help prepare themselves and their communities:

  • Personal Preparedness: Developing a household preparedness plan and disaster supplies kits, observing home health and safety practices, implementing disaster mitigation measures, and participating in crime prevention and reporting.
  • Training: Taking classes in emergency preparedness, response capabilities, first aid, CPR, fire suppression, and search and rescue procedures.
  • Volunteer Service: Engaging individuals in volunteer activities that support first responders, disaster relief groups, and community safety organizations.

We are fortunate to have very active partner programs in Clark County, including CERT: Community Emergency Response Teams, Fire Corps, Neighbors on Watch, MRC: Medical Reserve Corps, VIPS: Volunteers in Police Program, CCSO Auxiliary, ARES/Races: Amateur Radio, and Search and Rescue Teams. These teams donate over 10,000 hours to our communities every year helping public safety!

These programs expand the resources and materials available to states and local communities by partnering with Public Safety Departments and Organizations that offer resources for public education, outreach, and training; represent volunteers interested in helping to make their community safer; or offer volunteer service opportunities to support first responders, disaster relief activities, and community safety efforts.

Please visit our webpage where you can find more information about the programs under Citizen Corps in Clark County. Thank You Clark County Public Safety Volunteers. We could not do it without you!!

Do You Have The Right Stuff?

Thank you to all of our 911 Dispatchers and Calltakers who come in every day whether it’s sunny or snowing to take call after difficult call with such compassion and quality of service.  Being a 911 telecommunicator at CRESA requires having a heart to serve your community, concern for those in need, the integrity to do the right thing, ability to think outside of the box during critical situations, the communication capacity to listen, ask questions and capture all of it at the same time on the computer to dispatch the appropriate responders.    

If you want join an excellent 911 center, please look for open recruitment on our website in Fall of 2019 for 911 Dispatch Call Taker Trainees. 

Questions about applying?  The application process consist of an initial application and questionnaire which needs to be fully completed and accurate.  Qualified applicants will be invited to Criticall Testing.  Once you pass Criticall then candidates go to the interview process.  After successfully completing the interview process candidate will go to an extensive background investigation, psychological evaluation and medical evaluation.  Details on the application and selection process will be available on the posting.

ADDITIONAL JOB QUALIFICATIONS:

Excellent computer skills, knowledge and experience. Ability to monitor 4+ computer screens.

Attention to detail is essential.

Proven critical thinking skills.

Ability to memorize and recall details, codes and procedures.

Ability to work all days and hours. 

Ability to pass all required job selection and training processes including a comprehensive background investigation; post-offer medical processes; psychological evaluation;

If you think you have the right stuff, check back this fall when we will once again be recruiting for 911 Call Takers and Dispatchers!

Thanks,

Leslie Chapman

HR Mgr, CRESA

CRESA Dispatch Employee of the Year!

CRESA DISPATCH EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR

Carrie Johnson being named CRESA Dispatch Employee of the Year. With Leslie Chapman, HR Manager and Dave Fuller, CRESA Director

Each year, CRESA employees have a chance to nominate peers for Employee of the Year who demonstrate the CRESA Values. Two awards are given out, and one of those is the CRESA Dispatch Employee of the Year.  This year, Carrie Johnson has been named CRESA Dispatch Employee of the Year! Let us first take a moment to introduce you to Carrie.  We asked Carrie to share a little about herself, in her own words:

What do you like to do in your spare time? Travel!! I have a goal to see all 50 states by age 50..then I’ll start on countries.  I also love walks.. playing Pokemon Go (yes really!) .. Reading.. Walking with my husband.. and I have been known to play a slot machine or 2 (or 1,000) in my day. I also play piano but I’m definitely no Mozart.

Favorite Food?  PIZZA! Specifically, Blind Onion’s Breath Buster garlic pie is my fav- Plus, Mexican food, banana bread and probably have to throw ‘the tonight dough’ Ben and Jerry’s ice cream on there.

Favorite Sports Team or Hobby? I don’t follow sports, but I think my favorite hobby is cooking new things..and playing highly competitive Scrabble games. (Did you know that Qi and Za are words? Write that down)

How long have you worked at CRESA? It will be 13 years in September.. Doesn’t feel that long though.

How Did you first become interested in 9-1-1 Dispatching? Brent Donaldson (current VPD officer) used to be a coworker of mine in the restaurant industry.. he left to be a cop, and used to come in and tell me how I should do the same… When I said NO WAY, he said.. ‘What about dispatch?’   And the rest is history.

Carrie truly represents and displays the values of CRESA responders and work for the betterment of the community .  Below is Carrie’s nomination from a peer for Dispatch Employee of the Year.

Carrie Johnson
(Dedication & Integrity & Passion, Communication & Concern):

Carrie comes in everyday with a good attitude and work ethic.  She is compassionate, empathetic and patient with her callers.  She takes bad call after bad call without hesitation and always in a calm manner and a tactical tone.   She is the first to give her co-workers a helping hand, is pleasant, kind and caring.  Carrie never complains or gets involved in drama but instead uses her sense of humor to make us smile or laugh on tough days. She has stepped up into the AWC role when needed and is seen as a leader amongst her peers.

Thank You Carrie for being a wonderful role model!  Here at CRESA, we are fortunate to have you as part of the team!  Congratulations on being named CRESA Dispatch Employee of the Year 2018!

From Our Director – Thank You

The second week of April has been set aside as National Public Safety Telecommunicators week.  Initially established in 1981 this weeklong event is a time for us to recognize, celebrate and thank those who have dedicated themselves to helping others and truly serve as the first link in our Public Safety Response system.

Public Safety Dispatchers serve as the critical link between the callers and the responding agencies.   Working as an effective team, they provide pre-arrival instructions and calm reassurance to the callers while giving important information and updates to the responding units. We are blessed with Dispatchers who take their responsibilities seriously and who care deeply about the community we serve as well as the officers, fire fighters and medics they work with each day.

We expect a lot, asking them to get it right each and every time.  Over the course of the last year, I have had to opportunity to listen to many of our Telecommunicators.  In each case, I am impressed and proud at how they skillfully gather vital information from callers; many who are scared, confused, and dealing with traumatic events as they unfold, often not sure where they are, or what to do next.   In a precise fashion, they determine a priority and dispatch the appropriate help.  All while listening for, and sharing information to the responding to Police, Fire and EMS units.  Last year here at CRESA they did this more than a thousand time a day.

Our community is fortunate to have some of the best in the industry and it is my honor to be able to work with them on a daily basis.  They stand prepared 24 hours of the day, seven days of the week, “Always Here, Always Ready.”

This year is special in the fact that congress has proposed legislation which would appropriately reclassify Public Safety Telecommunicators with other “Protective” occupations (as opposed to administrative/clerical occupations) in the Standard Occupational Classification.  The 9-1-1 SAVES Act is currently being reviewed in the US Senate and could use your support.   https://www.apcointl.org/take-action

Please join me this week and take the opportunity to thank them and show your support for the great job they do each and every day.

Dave Fuller

Director, Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency

What Would I Do… If 911 Didn’t Answer?

Have you ever wondered what you would do if 911 didn’t answer?  Unfortunately, it’s pretty likely that in the last 5-8 years 911 service or your telephone service has experienced some type of outage.  If you were lucky, you didn’t need 911 during those outages – but what if you did?  The voice and data systems that provide wireline and wireless services to consumers and the 911 system form a complex network that supports your 911 call from the device you call from all the way through to the 911 call taker – we like to refer to this continuum of service as “from call maker to call taker”.

With so many providers, networks, hardware and software playing a part in your phone call to 911 it’s not surprising that there might be an outage of some sort.  Who is affected and what services are affected can be very difficult to isolate and identify – and this is where you come in.  Depending on the circumstance you may have different options.  Below we identify some options for you to try depending on the circumstance:

If you have an emergency and reach for your phone to call 911 and don’t have a dial tone or are unable to make the call –  what can you do? 

  • Ask someone else to call on a different line or device / phone.  Your phone may be damaged or out of service, so asking another person to try can help identify if the issue is isolated to you.
  • Use a different service provider to make the call.  If your cell phone can’t get through, try your landline.  Or ask your friend or coworker, who has a different cell phone provider, to make the call.  Sometimes one provider is having an issue, but others aren’t.
  • Try texting to 911.  Sometimes a voice call won’t work, but a text will.

If you have an emergency but when you call 911 it rings but no one ever answers – what can you do?

  • Don’t hang up!  Remember that our 911 call takers and dispatchers can get very busy and while we prioritize incoming 911 calls as the first ones to answer, you may have to wait.  Our telephone system is designed to put you into a queue if we are unable to answer the phone at around 45 seconds.  You will hear a message if this happens.  Hold on the line and wait for the call taker to pick up.  I know it seems like a long time, but trust us, we are doing the very best we can.

If you have an emergency but when you call 911 you hear ringing for a minute or so, this may be a situation where your phone is ringing but the call actually hasn’t made it into the 911 center.  Sometimes service providers will play a ring sound to you even when the call isn’t ringing here at the 911 center.  What can you do?

  • Try the steps above:  ask someone else to call, try a different service provider, or text 911.

If you have an emergency and all the above fails – what can you do?

  • Call our ten digit emergency number – 360-696-4461.  We have a restricted number of calls we can take at one time on this line, so you could hear a busy signal when you call.
  • Call 311.  Remember 311 is our non-emergency line, but these calls are delivered on a different network than our 911 calls, so if 911 is down we may be able to receive calls on 311.
  • Call the ten digit equivalent to 311 – 360-693-3111.  Sometimes the 311 short code doesn’t work for certain areas or certain providers.  If you can’t get through dialing 311 you can try the ten digit line instead.

Did you notice how all of the circumstances above started with “if you have an emergency”?  If you would like help determining what is an emergency check out our post: When To Call.

But if you call 911 and can’t get through or don’t get an answer and it’s not an emergency, try again later.  We may have experienced a really high volume of calls due to traffic accidents, fires, or other major events.  Waiting 30 minutes or more can help relieve the demand on the center during those high volume events. 

Whenever you experience any type of service outage, check with your service provider, news outlets, and social media for up to date information.  For notifications about events here at CRESA follow us on Facebook , NextDoor, and @CRESATalk on Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to also sign up for emergency notifications at Clark Public Alerts.

In the complex world of voice and digital networks we can assume there will be outages, we hope this can be a resource for you to be prepared so you will know what to do should you need us but can’t reach us.

Here at CRESA and even your service provider might not be aware of an outage when it first occurs. Once there is awareness, we most likely don’t have an accurate description of the outage and its impacts right away.

By Katy Myers, ENP

Technical & Suupport Division Manager, CRESA

National Telecommunications Week 2019

During the coming week, we will focus on several topics near and dear to our local dispatch staff and what they want you to know to help CRESA help You!  We will of course also highlight our awesome staff and the amazing job they do 24/7.

Each year, the second full week of April is dedicated to the men and women who serve as public safety telecommunicators.  It was first conceived by Patricia Anderson of the Contra Costa County (CA) Sheriff’s Office in 1981 after the Sheriff overlooked telling Dispatch that he was taking the administrative support team to lunch.  By the early 1990’s the national APCO organization convinced congress for a formal proclamation that was signed by President Bush in 1992.  To read more about how Patricia got the movement started you can click here.

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week helps recognize the more than 500,000 telecommunications specialists nation-wide for an amazing job done in providing excellent public safety.

Marking the 1972 Tornado

Destruction of the Peter S. Ogden School, April 1972 tornado.

Washington and Oregon average about 1 or 2 tornadoes a year. Each usually are relatively weak, and do minimal damage. That was not the case on April 5, 1972 when a devasting F3 tornado struck Vancouver killing 6 and injuring 300. It is by far the worst tornado in Pacific Northwest History.

As we mark the anniversary, we thought we would ask a couple members from our staff who endured that 1972 storm and hear their memories from that day in their own words.

Tamie Cody – Emergency Management Coordinator – “I was 12 years old in 1972 and going to Minnehaha Elementary School. Of the eight kids in my family, six were at Minnehaha. The other two were at Lewis Jr High School. Mom and Dad both worked in Portland. I remember the teachers running around. They looked worried. When the sirens at the school went off, it scared us all, not knowing what was going on. The teacher told us it was a little wind storm and that we would be evacuating into the basement of the school. We lined up and headed to the basement with all the other kids in the school. About 500 panicked kids were running and falling down as we made our way down the congested stairwell. Once we were there, they told us that a tornado had hit and as soon as the buses could get there, we would all be going home.

There was no structure for this evacuation, parents were running in looking for kids and buses were arriving hurrying us to load. It felt like a madhouse. Kids were scared, crying and then dropped off blocks from our regular stops because of storm damage. The bus driver wasn’t sure if it was safe. I found my dad driving around trying to locate us. We listened to the radio for information on the storm. We were one of the few homes on our street with a basement. Dad scooped up a bunch of the neighbor kids, as their parents were not home yet, and took us all down into our basement until their parents could arrive where he felt it was safe. Power lines were down, and the neighboorhood was without power. Dad made popcorn in the fireplace which we all thought was cool. The mother of one of the kids that stayed with us, was killed at the Sunrise Bowling Alley on 4th Plain when it was hit by the tornado. That family – forever changed. “

Cindy Stanley – Emergency Management Coordinator – “This started off a nice and sunny spring day.  I was in 9th grade in Orchards at Cascade/Covington Junior High.  First reports came from the hand-held small transistor radios that were so popular in 1972, as everyone cool seemed to have one.  Radio announcers made it sound like the world was coming to an end, as their own voices rose with fear.  Wild, unbelievable reports were coming in of destruction and most certainly injured people.  I was worried about my family and my horses.  Being in 1972 Clark County I don’t remember much for emergency procedures.  But, there was a teacher from the Kansas or Oklahoma area there.  She told us to quickly move across the room, to the inside opposite wall of the windows.  We could see that the sky was very strange and dark.  She had us bend down and place a binder to cover our heads. Luckily, our school wasn’t damaged but we were as safe as you could be in that situation. 

Probably scariest was the radio report that another tornado was spotted on its way to Orchards.  For some reason that was worse.   Everyone knew someone that was affected from the Tornado.  There were plenty of hero stories that day. 

I was disturbed with my Mom as she had told me we don’t have Tornadoes here.  She was probably upset herself that her beliefs were shattered too.  Poor thing, here she was at 36 with four kids that she needed to protect.    

Driving around days later and seeing the devastation was horrible.  Up off Mill Plain, west of Andresen there were several houses destroyed.  One house was gone and the next door house looked fine.  How could that happen?

As a 15 year old, I didn’t want the bedroom light turned off for a week.  Looking back at it now, this deeply affected me.  Some of us were still damaged from the 1962 Columbus Day Storm so living through another storm just brought fresh physiological wounds.  Although I’ve learned to calm my fear of big wind, it’s not completely gone.” 

I think about this as an example to reunite my family in an emergency situation.  A Communications Plan is most important.  How will you get in touch with each other?  What is the Local Area Networks are down?  Does everyone have an outside area contact to text that they are safe?

The Rescue and Recovery- Twenty ambulances from Clark County and from Portland converged on the damaged areas, assisted by four Army National Guard and two Air Force Reserve helicopters.  The injured were taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Vancouver Memorial Hospital, while rescuers remained on the scene throughout the afternoon and into the evening, searching the ruins with their bare hands to insure no one remained trapped in the rubble. 

The Vancouver tornado has the dubious distinction of being the deadliest tornado recorded in the United States in 1972. Six people were killed and at least 304 were injured seriously enough to be taken to area hospitals for evaluation and treatment. Property damage exceeded $5 million.  Today, the tornado remains the deadliest in Washington state history.  Thanks Tamie and Cindy for sharing your memories of that day!

Reported CenturyLink Outage Impacting Parts of Vancouver, WA

3/5/2019 6:45 pm The Outage has been resolved. At this time we have no further information. Thank You…

3/5/2019 6pm There is a reported CenturyLink outage in parts of Vancouver. This outage may impact the ability to reach 9-1-1 in an emergency.

  • 911 Systems in Clark County are functioning properly.
  • The impact is to CenturyLink Customers only and affects both non-emergency and 911 calls.  Other carrier systems, including cell phones and landlines are working.
  • If you are a CenturyLink Customer and cannot get through to 911 use a cell phone or another landline to call 911
  • Please do not call 911 to test your lines.

We have no additional information at this time. CRESA will send an update when the system is restored.