EASTSOUND, WA – Orcas Island Fire & Rescue is celebrating the second whole week of April (April 9-15) as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. This week, sponsored by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International and celebrated annually, honors the thousands of men and women who respond to emergency calls, dispatch emergency professionals and equipment, and render life-saving assistance to the world’s citizens.
Recent events have highlighted the work of telecommunications professionals at OIFR. Our dispatchers in San Juan County do an amazing job juggling ALL emergency calls for every island SIMULTANEOUSLY.
Our Assistant Chief recalled a recent high call volume event in which our San Juan Dispatchers saved the day:
“On average, OIFR gets a second simultaneous call about 23% of the time it has a first call. Since I have been here, we have had moments when we on Orcas were running up to five simultaneous 9-1-1 calls, and that doesn’t include law enforcement calls and active calls on other islands.
"During one particularly busy day last year, OIFR had three simultaneous medical calls going, spanning both sides of the island. Two of the calls involved critically ill patients. Naturally, this was the moment that the radio system became ineffective from portable handheld radios on one side of the island (don’t worry, it is working again now).
"I was alone in a remote location with a critically ill patient. I could not make radio contact to coordinate incoming resources without leaving my patient and going out to my apparatus-mounted mobile radio (the portables couldn’t transmit effectively at that moment). Leaving my patient alone was not an option. Luckily, I had cell phone service and was able to call dispatch. I quickly gave dispatch a list of my priority needs and asked them to investigate resource availability, make decisions on my behalf and execute those decisions. They did an amazing job and got me the resources my patient needed quickly and efficiently and with such a positive can-do attitude. I threw a lot at them at once, and they didn’t skip a beat.
"I have worked in three other counties and am continuously impressed by and grateful for the dedication, professionalism, and ability to respond to complex and out-of-the-ordinary situations demonstrated by San Juan County Dispatch on a daily basis.”
They may be unseen, but they are the first to answer our call in times of crisis. Always willing, ready, and proud to serve. We are very grateful for the dedication and commitment of our dispatch crew to the safety of our community!