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So You Want to Be a 911 Dispatcher? Join the CRESA Team

Are you cool under pressure?  Do you think you have what it take to help callers on what may be their worst day?   When the caller makes the call to 911, it often is when they are mentally and physically at their worst.  Unless someone sits in their chair, on the radio, tethered to the phone for hours and hours, listening to what they listen to, you’ll never understand how it feels and what it takes to be a 9-1-1 Dispatcher!

Why do we share this?  Being a 9-1-1 Dispatcher isn’t an easy job. Dispatchers often are bombarded with calls and work between 10 and 12 hours a day with few opportunities for breaks and no time to reset between calls.  It takes the right type of personality to be able to handle the calls and the pace a dispatcher has to handle.  911 isn’t just a Call Center.  It’s your community’s first-first responders.  Each dispatcher is invested in the moment with people in crisis on the phone.

 

 

Yet with all the craziness the job brings, there are also many rewards.   They provide direction, help, and a direct link to responders.  They coordinate police, fire and medical response to assist those in their time of need. This is a highly trained and specialized team looking for others like them – people with DEDICATION, INTEGRITY, CREATIVITY, PASSION, COMMUNICATION AND CONCERN.  CRESA is highly accredited and has one of the best training programs in the country.  We provide all the training needed to be successful at this job, and yes, to even save a life!

If this seems like a career path you are interested in pursuing, please contact us and apply at www.cresa911.org/employment.

Thank You

Greetings,

This week has been set aside for us to recognize our 9-1-1 Dispatchers here at CRESA and to celebrate National Telecommunicators Week April 9th – 15th.

Our Dispatchers work long hours; at times, 14-hour days serving 25 different police, fire and medical response agencies in Clark County. Last year our Dispatchers received and processed over 408,000 calls; approximately one call every 78 seconds.

Dispatchers are the First – “First-Responders”.  They provide the critical link and the “calm voice” between the community and the responding agencies sent to the scene.  Dispatchers provide information to the responding units while reassuring and directing the caller what to do.

It has been noted in the past, a 911 dispatcher is asked to wear many hats and to switch roles at a moment’s notice as needed.  Roles include everything from: Teacher, Coach, Counselor, Researcher, Geography expert, Negotiator, Resource Manager or “mom”, to name a few.

As an industry, we ask a lot of these dedicated individuals while expecting them to get it right each and every time.   We ask them to gather information from scared, frantic or angry citizens, who often don’t know where they are; type everything into a computer aided dispatch system; determine a priority and dispatch the appropriate help; continue gathering information while listening for calling responders; pass hazard information along to Police, Fire and EMS personnel, switching quickly from one task to the next.

 

Our Dispatchers are passionate and take their responsibilities seriously.  They are driven to do well and care personally about the citizens, officers, fire fighters and medics they serve.  It takes a special type of individual to handle the long hours, multi-tasking and emotional toll it takes to keep the citizens and first responders of Clark County safe.  This is the life of a public safety telecommunicator, or more often known as the 911 dispatcher.

Our community is blessed with having some of the best in the industry and it is my honor to be able to work on a daily basis with the women and men who sit behind the mic and serve as the First-“First Responders”, who are there 24 hours a day, seven days of the week, 365 days of the year.

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

 

Dave Fuller, Director

Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency

 

A Guide: What to Know

Calling 9-1-1 is serious business.  We want you to call 9-1-1 to receive help for emergencies, potential emergencies, or if you are not sure if it’s an emergency.  But what happens when you call for help?  What should you say? What does the person on the other line need to know?  What if you forget something?
Dispatchers are trained to pull and assess information from a caller. Expect them to guide you with questions.  They know what information they need to get first in order to ensure the right type of help arrives in a timely manner, and the best way to get the assistance you need is to answer the questions in the order they ask them.

Here’s a quick guide to help us help You:

  • If you speak another language or dialect tell us right away. At push of a button, we can connect to a translator.  CRESA has translated 9-1-1 calls in more than 170 languages.  Text to 9-1-1 is also available if it is unsafe for you to make a voice call or for individuals with hearing impairments.  Do Not use Emoji’s and be sure to share your location and the nature of your emergency in the first texts you send.  Remember to Call if You Can, Text if You Can’t!

 

  • Let the dispatcher know what is happening. Is there a crime in progress? Is there a fire?  Does someone need medical help? This information lets our dispatchers know what type of help you need.
  • We want to know where the situation is occurring. Knowing your Location is critical in getting the right help to you as quickly as we can.  Provide an exact address if you know it and don’t forget the floor and apartment number if you are in a building.  Unsure of where you are?  A nearby intersection or landmark will help.  
  • When did the incident occur? It is important to know if this is an active situation so our dispatchers can prepare the first responders know what to expect.
  • Let us know who is involved. We want to know if it a family member, someone you know, or a stranger.  It also helps to know if there are multiple people involved and who they are.
  • If weapon was used then let us know. Telling a dispatcher about weapons helps keep the public and first responders safe.
  • Tell us if anyone is injured. If someone is hurt, our dispatchers will ask you a series of questions to determine what type of care is needed.  Our dispatchers are also trained to provide medical instruction until a medic arrives.

It is important to remember the type of response is based on the emergency.  CRESA’s 9-1-1 call center receives more than 1,000 calls per day.  Not every call can or should involve emergency units traveling at high speeds with lights flashing and sirens blaring.  This type of response comes with inherent risk for the public and the first responders, but is rightly reserved for life-threatening emergencies.  Consider using 3-1-1 if your call is not an urgent life and safety call.  As a reminder, the same individuals that answer 9-1-1, also answer 3-1-1, so if you are put on hold, it is because they are currently busy. 

We hope you rarely have to call 9-1-1.  But if you you or someone else is experiencing an emergency, then keep these tips in mind.  Our 9-1-1 dispatchers will help you get the help that you need in a timely manner.

Accidental Calls: Don’t Hang Up!

Ever get a call from a loved one or good friend, and when you answer there is no one on the other end?  You can hear them giggling or chatting away… but its not to you!  I’ve heard friends singing at full volume… out of tune… to the radio unaware that I can hear them also.  You too then have been a victim of a “Pocket Dial.”

This recent phenomena, waccidental callshich may cause a little embarrassment to the caller and a little frustration or entertainment to the call receiver, has also become a problem when that number dialed is 9-1-1.  I am sure like me, you have seen people store cell phones on their bodies everywhere.  Anywhere from pockets, and socks to even bras.  Yes people have become resourceful in how they keep this modern day life line with them at all times.

Or how many of you have given your old phone to your child to play with?  Did you know, that as long as that old phone has a battery charge, it can still call 9-1-1?  If you do decide to let your child have your old phone, take out the battery.

These accidental calls now make up about Twenty Percent of all calls to CRESA 911.  That may not seem like a lot, but when you factor in that by state law CRESA 911 needs to call you back, to verify there actually is not an emergency it starts to really add up!!  In 2015, CRESA received over 408,000 911 calls.   62, 047 of those calls were accidental or incomplete that required a dispatcher to call the caller back to verify there was not an emergency!  Around 1800 of those accidental calls ended in 911 dispatch sending law enforcement to check on the caller.   Just think of the time involved in OVER 62,000 calls answered, and then having to be called back.

                                               Video from King County 911

What Can You do to be Part of the Solution?

  • Use your cellphone’s key lock to help prevent accidental calls
  • Protect your cellphone by locking and storing it carefully
  • Don’t allow children to play with your phones
  • Programming 9-1-1 into your phone may cause accidental calls.  Instead, teach children how to dial 9-1-1.

What Can You do if You Accidentally call 9-1-1?

Stay on the line, and tell dispatchers that it was an accident. Be prepared to answer any questions they may have.  Staying on the line helps ensure that you are OK.  It also helps save time by not having to call you back or the sending of a law enforcement officer to verify you are alright.

Happy Public Safety Telecommunications Week 2017!

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.

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.

Spring Forward, Change Clocks & Check Smoke Detector

 

Early Sunday morning on March 12th , Daylight Savings Time begins. We will loose time by moving our clocks forward an hour.

Even though we loose an hour it only takes minutes to check your fire alarms, change the batteries and ensure they are in good working order before spring begins.

By doing this one simple thing you can take comfort in knowing your alarms will be ready to let you know when fire danger looms.

Comcast Reports Multi-State Outage Effecting Calling 911

UPDATE: Comcast has resolved the issue regarding the 911 outage. CRESA has conducted tests to verify the issue has been resolved. Thank you for your patience during this outage.

 

Comcast has reported a multi-state issue effecting  Comcast VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) including the Portland Metro Region.

 

  • 911 Systems in Clark County are functioning properly.

 

  • The impact is to Comcast VOIP Customers only and affects both non-emergency and 911 calls.  Other carrier systems, including cell phones and landlines are working.

 

  • If you are a Comcast VOIP Customer and cannot get through to 911 use a cell phone or landline to call 911

 

  • Please do not call 911 to test your lines.

 

Comcast is investigating and we have no additional information at this time. CRESA will send another press release when the system is restored.

 

2017 and the “Big Chill”

With daily high temps barely reaching freezing, and low temps in the teens and 20’s we wanted to touch base with some pointers to help get through this cold snap.  With forecast overnight wind chills in the low single digits several nights this week, we are encouraging those without shelter to seek shelter and are asking for the community’s help watching out for those who are most vulnerable to severe cold.

The forecast calls for temperatures below 30 degrees continuing for the next week.  At these low temperatures there is increased risk of exposure-related injuries for unsheltered homeless people who do not have sufficient gear, such as coats, hats, gloves, footwear, tarps, sleeping bags and blankets.

Shelter space is available in Clark County by calling the Council for the Homeless at 360-695-9677.   You can also call 211 at any hour of the day for the latest information about open shelters. Calls are answered in over 150 languages. You can also visit 211’s website at www.211info.org for updated information and sign up for emails or texts about updated warming center locations.

Warming Shelters: Anyone seeking shelter should call 211 info by dialing 211, toll free, from any phone. 211 will help identify the closest available shelter and transportation options. Severe weather centers will accommodate individuals and couples, pets and belongings, and do not require identification or any other documentation.  Families with children seeking shelter should also call 211 and will be directed to a shelter that can accommodate children.

Persons in Need of Assistance:  If you see someone outside unsheltered whose life appears to be in danger or is in an apparent medical crisis, call 9-1-1.  Otherwise, if you see someone about whom you are concerned, such as not being dressed for the weather conditions, call police non-emergency 311 and request a welfare check for that person.

Donations Needed:  Homeless service organizations are in need of cold weather gear – including sleeping bags, tarps, tents, blankets, hats, coats, gloves, and socks – that they can provide to people during this period of severe weather. Agencies welcome all donations, but are particularly in need of items in good condition made from warmer and  more durable materials designed for outdoor use.  For information about what and where to donate, please contact 211info by dialing 211 during regular business hours or by visiting their website, 211info.org.

Public Buildings: People seeking to get warm, especially during daytime hours, are encouraged to utilize public buildings that are open to the public, including, for example, libraries and community centers, which will be open regular hours starting Monday. Library hours are listed on Fort Vancouver Regional Library Webpage.  Community center information can be found here.

For additional information  including: hypothermia, carbon monoxide hazards and important information on the use of alternative sources of heat please see our blog post on the dangers of cold. 

Other Preparedness Tidbits:

In our often mild climate, don’t get caught unprepared for the next good winter storm. And remember to consider “who depends on you” as you prepare. With animals, small children or others who need additional assistance, remember they rely on you to be ready!

 

The Dangers of Cold

With low temperatures and high winds expect to continue through the weekend, health and emergency management officials are encouraging homeless people to seek shelter and urging seniors and other at-risk populations to protect themselves from cold exposure.

“Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up

Thermometer showing winter cold

your body’s stored energy, resulting in hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County Health Officer/Public Health Director. “This affects the brain, making hypoth

 

ermia particularly dangerous because a person may be unaware it is happening and unable to to do anything about it.”

When someone spends time in cold temperatures, the body can lose heat faster than it can be produced. Low body temperature may make someone unable to think clearly or move well.  They may not realize their body temperature is dropping dangerously low.

A low body temperature is a medical emergency.

People more likely to have health problems because of the cold include (1) elderly people with inadequate food, clothing, or heating; (2) babies sleeping in cold bedrooms; (3) people who remain outdoors for long periods, and (4) people who drink alcohol or use illicit drugs.

Warnings signs of dropping body temperature (hypothermia) include:

Adults: shivering, extreme tiredness, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, feeling sleepy

Infants: bright red, cold skin, very low energy

If you notice any of these signs, get medical attention immediately and begin warming the person by getting them into a warm room or shelter, taking off any wet clothing, and wrapping them in warm dry blankets.

Frostbite is another health risk in very cold weather.  It is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. People who are more likely to suffer frostbite are those with poor blood circulation and those not dressed warmly enough for extremely cold temperatures.

Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in the affected body part. Anyone who thinks they may have frostbite should gently warm the body part and get medical care immediately.

Cold in the home

If you need help affording your heating bills, or your heat has been turned off, contact 211 for information to find agencies that can help with your heating bills.

If you plan to use a wood stove, fireplace, candles, or space heater, be extremely careful.

Keep a fire extinguisher near the area to be heated.

If you must use a kerosene heater, make sure you have good airflow in the room by leaving a window or a door slightly open. Use only the type of fuel your heater is designed to use—don’t substitute.

If your heater has a damaged electrical cord or produces sparks, don’t use it. Keep space heaters away from things that may catch on fire, such as drapes, furniture, or bedding.

Use fireplaces, wood stoves, and other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak flue gas into the indoor air space.

When temperatures drops

Staying warm and dry, making simple changes in your activities, and using good judgment can help you remain safe and healthy during cold weather. These self-help measures are not a substitute for medical care but may help you recognize and respond promptly to warning signs of trouble.

Check on family members and neighbors who are especially at risk: young children, older adults, and people with chronic illness.

Hypothermia- what you need to know

When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. This is more likely when you are damp from rain or sweat.

Low body temperature may make you unable to think clearly or move well.

You may not know you have hypothermia.

If your temperature is below 95°, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.

Elders, young children, and people who remain outdoors for long periods, such as the homeless, outdoor workers, and outdoor recreators, are especially vulnerable.

The symptoms of hypothermia can mimic the symptoms of impairment from drugs and alcohol.

For additional information visit; www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/hypothermia.html(link is external)

Warnings signs of hypothermia
Adults:  shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, drowsiness

Infants: bright red, cold skin, very low energy

Fire and carbon monoxide hazards

If you must use alternative heat sources such as generators or fireplaces to stay warm, be aware of the risk of household fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled.

When power outages occur during natural disasters and other emergencies, the use of alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating or cooking can cause carbon monoxide to build up in a home, garage, or camper and to poison the people and animals inside.

Only burn charcoal outdoors, never inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.

Always make sure to turn off any gas-powered engine, even if the garage door is open.

Do not use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens or clothes dryers for heating your home.

Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and confusion. If you suspect CO poisoning, get to fresh air immediately, and then call 9-1-1.

For additional information visit: www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4340092_FireCOFactSheet.pdf

Cold, Windy with a Chance of SnowFlakes

 

Baby It’s Cold Outside… If you stepped outside already this morning, you were surely met with a certain brisk chill in the air.  Cold East Winds have already arrived as our next winter storm rolls in later today.

What We Know:

  • A Wind advisory was issued Tuesday through Wednesday evening for areas nearest the gorge but could have some impact.  Winds 25-35 mph with gusts to 50 mph.
  • A Winter Weather Advisory has been issued for our area beginning at 11 am today.
  • Some snow is likely this afternoon starting around 2-5 pm for Clark County through Wednesday evening.
    • Snow.  Some snow, 1-3” is likely down to the valley floor in Clark County expected around 2-5 pm on Wednesday.  Snow showers may continue past midnight.    There are three scenarios, described to us:
      • The most likely scenario is for 1-3” of snow in our area with a worst case of 3-5” and a Dusting-1” best case.  The eastern parts of our county can expect the heavier accumulations, as you would expect.
      • Our heaviest snow is expected after  2-5  pm and through the evening commute,  snow may continue past midnight, as it tapers off into the east side/gorge.  East county may continue a bit longer.
      • The temperatures are expected to remain cold, and anything on the ground is likely to stay around Thursday and Friday.
  • Freezing Rain/Sleet is not currently forecasted for our area.
  • East Winds will continue through the event, gusting 35-45 mph in the eastern portions (Camas/Washougal) of our county.  There will be less wind as you move west.

Here are a few Winter Driving Tips from our friends at WSDOT.

May 2017
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