DoD Recognizes 911 Professionals During National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week
By John Holloway, Office of Global Public Safety Communications, Defense Information Systems Agency
The Department of Defense (DoD) is celebrating National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week in collaboration with state and municipal emergency response organizations nationwide who support the 911 Telecommunicator Tree of Life.
Throughout the week, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) will join the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the Defense Logistics Agency to acknowledge the work of 911 professionals leading DoD’s emergency response. Here are a few stories of exceptional telecommunicators from the past year, submitted by the Marine Corps, Army, and Air Force:
On July 5, 2021, public safety telecommunicator Mary Baumgardner received a 911 emergency call from the barracks duty Non-Commissioned Officer who found a Marine that had fallen from the third deck of the building at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. The Marine was conscious and breathing but was bleeding from a laceration on his forehead. She answered the 911 call promptly, and within seconds of receiving the call entered a high priority response for dispatch. She continued to gather pertinent information to prepare first responders for arrival on the scene and kept the caller calm by providing pre-arrival instructions to help prevent additional injury to the patient until they arrived.
During a winter storm on Jan. 3, 2022, while Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia’s center experienced a fivefold increase in call volume, public safety telecommunicator Jeremy Board not only professionally and proficiently handled the increased 911 calls, calls for service and administrative calls, he also assisted the gate guards with instructions for a pregnant woman in active labor who stopped at the base’s main gate because she couldn’t get to the hospital due the storm.
On Nov. 8, 2021, public safety telecommunicator Tiffanny Brewer received a 911 emergency call from a contractor at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, who had found his co-worker unresponsive and not breathing inside their work van. She answered the call promptly and appropriately screened the call, which was followed by a quick dispatch and response to the emergency. She kept the caller calm and guided them through CPR instructions. Her excellent call-handling skills, techniques, and ability to remain calm and focused enabled the Emergency Dispatch Center to quickly obtain the pertinent information regarding the accident and the condition of the patient, and dispatch the appropriate EMS and law enforcement personnel.
On Jan. 15, 2022, public safety telecommunicator Brian Brown, still in training at the time, quickly and proficiently processed a domestic disturbance called in by a young child on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. Due to his calm demeanor and rapid processing of information, law enforcement and medical units were rapidly dispatched and updated during their response.
On Oct. 1, 2021, public safety telecommunicator Hiram Grantham took a call regarding a guest from Afghanistan who was pregnant with twins and in childbirth on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. He was able to quickly input the call information and dispatch units to get a landing zone set up so the patient could be flown to a local hospital by medevac helicopter. Part of the complexity of this incident was working with a contracted medical service that was not on our radio system and communication issues with the helicopter. His professionalism and quick thinking were instrumental in the patient getting to their destination in a timely manner.
Public safety telecommunicator Cindy Lee provided excellent support to Fire and Emergency Services throughout 2021 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island, South Carolina. She received, processed, and dispatched over 110 emergency responses, 15 emergency standbys, and 26 fire alarm responses. As the only 911 dispatcher on duty due to staffing shortages, she was also faced with providing 911 services during a Mass Casualty Incident with 17 heat casualties, where she single-handedly provided excellent services while performing call taking and dispatching duties.
Public safety telecommunicator Jessica Noland has provided excellent service and support throughout 2021 to the Emergency Dispatch Center at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort, South Carolina. She has become certified in Quality Assurance and as a Communications Training Officer. In addition to her normal duties, she served as the National Crime Information Center Assistant Terminal Agency Coordinator, maintaining 210 South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Criminal Justice Information Services Practitioner accounts and files, and managed SLED NexTest accounts. She has assisted in the maintenance of Consolidated Emergency Response System (CERS) components, consisting of Enhanced 911, Computer-Aided Dispatch, and Fire Station Alerting systems, as well as the Enterprise Land Mobile Radio system, for the MCAS Beaufort.
On Aug. 25, 2021, public safety telecommunicator Michael Stahl received a 911 call for an individual experiencing heat exposure with a temperature of 105.9 out in the training area of Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. He processed the information and quickly dispatched medical units. The patient was moved by their unit against Range Control’s advice and he was able to assess the new location and redirect the responding units to the patient so they could be transported to a local hospital.
Public safety telecommunicator William Weatherford answered a 911 call on Nov. 30, 2021, from Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia’s wastewater treatment plant. A bulk tank had ruptured resulting in a large hazmat incident. His calm professional manner allowed him to quickly gather pertinent information to facilitate the rapid dispatch of fire and law enforcement personnel, and he continued to update units as new information was obtained.
On Aug. 11, 2021, while assigned as a 911 operator at the Army’s Fort Polk, Louisiana, installation, Gina Cuba received a 911 call advising her that a 71-year-old employee was choking and having trouble breathing. Aware of the urgency, she promptly assisted in instructing the caller on the steps for the Heimlich Maneuver. At the same time, the shift lead dispatcher, Amanda Smith, immediately sought to dispatch Fire, Police, and Medical teams to the scene. Cognizant of the life-saving actions needed, Ms. Cuba assisted the caller through two rounds of instructions until the patient was able to regain normal breathing and speak before the arrival of the Emergency Management team.
On Feb. 3, 2022, while assigned as a 911 operator at the Army’s Fort Hood, Texas, installation, Kelly Cartagena received a 911 call from a female reporting an assault. She first determined the safety of the caller, deciphering there was a handgun and a total of six persons in the quarters, including children. She advised the caller to move everyone into a bedroom and lock the door and then had the caller determine the status of the firearm. The caller advised that the firearm was in the master bedroom (not in a locked container). During attempts to have the caller secure the gun, the caller advised her husband was now in the master bedroom. Ms. Cartagena coordinated with the caller to have her exit the bedroom and unlock and open the front door to aid the police upon their arrival. The caller and family members were safely evacuated from the quarters and medical attention was provided to a 16-year-old victim. The subject was taken into custody with no incident.
On Feb. 4, 2022, while assigned as a 911 operator at the Army’s Fort Polk, Louisiana, installation, Matthew Haller answered a 911 call from the sibling of a service member who shared that her sister was going into labor. Mindful of the urgency, he sought to obtain the address and advised his shift lead dispatcher, Adaora Ukomah, to dispatch an ambulance to the location. Mr. Haller then started assisting the caller telephonically, ensuring a safe delivery up until the arrival of emergency personnel. All units were dispatched within one minute of the start of the call and arrived on site within six minutes of the dispatch. Upon arrival, all were witnesses to the newborn for the first time. Both mother and newborn were immediately transported to the medical facility where they were reported safe and healthy.
On Mar. 14, 2022, while assigned as a 911 operator at the Army’s Fort Polk, Louisiana, installation, Amanda Smith received a 911 call reporting a stove fire. She immediately dispatched Fort Polk Fire Dept #2 and advised the caller to cover the pot with the lid and exit the house. The caller followed her instructions immediately and left the home. Public safety dispatcher Stephanie Bingham (in training) took over radio traffic and public safety dispatcher Montana Laster coordinated police assistance. The fire team arrived on the scene and was able to extinguish the fire with no damage to the residence.
On Apr. 23, 2021, while assigned as a 911 operator at the Army’s Fort Bliss, Texas, installation, Anjelika Salgado (lead dispatcher), Gregory Polk (military police dispatcher), and Alfredo Sandoval (fire department dispatcher) received a 911 call from the Border Patrol requesting assistance in finding two missing 11-year-old children lost in Mescalero, NM. In response, the aircraft crash line was activated by Ms. Salgado for notification. During this time, the latitude and longitude coordinates provided by the Border Patrol were converted to identify grid location, and notifications were pushed out to respective agencies and leadership alerting them of the situation. Addressing the action, a medical evacuation helicopter team was additionally notified to assist in the search for the missing children. The dispatchers worked collectively to ensure joint coordination across various agencies over a wide span of territory, including the Fort Bliss Operations Center and Border Patrol. Both the children were found and taken to the hospital where they recovered.
Hollie Brown, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, demonstrates a consistently positive candor, a vast array of dispatch experience, and a true dedication to serving the public. In the last 90 days, she has dispatched emergency crews to significant events and directly elevated incident command and control. She coordinated the medical evacuation of a male who suffered a 40-foot fall from an aircraft hangar and unified four agencies after 60 pounds of explosives detonated and caught the storage facility on fire. She was also responsible for dispatching and controlling a tractor-trailer roll-over on Interstate 80 that escalated into a fully involved vehicle fire and directed medical care while coordinating pre-hospital support to multiple victims of cardiac arrest and respiratory failure.
Senior Airman Kevin De La Tour, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, was instrumental in preserving a $220 Million Air Force aircraft during a ground emergency. He received a call from Maintenance Operations Control stating that a maintenance hangar needed an immediate response from the fire department for an F-22 brake fire. He quickly recognized this information was not relayed correctly and contacted the air traffic control tower to initiate a formal emergency response. He dispatched the emergency, relayed precise location information to responding crews, and made all notifications to necessary agencies. Fire crews arrived and located the cause of the re-igniting fire, a steady hydraulic fluid leak. Responders provided a safe entry for crash recovery to work on the aircraft and prevent further damage.
David Greenwood, Royal Air Force Base Mildenhall, United Kingdom, has proven to be an invaluable member of our organization. Thanks to his dedication and hard work, two Royal Air Force (RAF) bases were able to bid for and ultimately achieve an upgraded Monaco D-21 emergency management package. This system links an emergency dispatching system that protects RAF Lakenheath's F-15 and F-35 strategic positioned platforms, RAF Mildnehall's 100th Air Refueling Wing's KC-135 mission (the only forward permanently postured air refueling platform), and the 352nd Special Operations Wing. All three of these commands support contingency operations all over the European and African theaters. Furthermore, he has been able to engage with key local civilian stakeholders to seek radio interoperability with external emergency services for critical incidents and improve key information flow enabling time-sensitive updates to be passed, and to allow for clearer and more focused command and control.
While serving as an emergency command center dispatcher, Airman First Class John Hernandez, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, fielded an emergency call for an unconscious seizure patient. He expertly relayed vital information to seven agencies, including the Host Nation (Germany) Deutsches Rotes Kreuz (DRK). While on the phone with the caller, he was a true professional and calmed down the caller by giving her up-to-date information from responding crews until they arrived on the scene. He also coordinated a medical helicopter from off-base for transport to the nearest Hospital. His unparalleled dispatcher skills expedited the DRK doctors to revive the patient, ultimately saving his life. Furthermore, A1C Hernandez managed two simultaneous F-16 aircraft ground emergencies. The first F-16 blew a tire upon landing, for which he dispatched Crash Recovery assets. While the F-16 was being recovered, a second F-16 made a hard landing, causing the rear gear to collapse and slide over 200 feet sheering a barrier cable and causing the aircraft to rest on a wing-mounted munition. He sprang into action by mobilizing 15 agencies and 47 responders to recover the pilot and prevent further damage to the $27 million aircraft.
Jamie Hill, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, demonstrates a very pleasant and positive attitude, and a vast array of dispatch experience while maintaining true dedication to work and serving the public. Although not a supervisor, she is seen as a leader for the entire dispatch center and is consistent with her performance in keeping information flowing and communication effective. In the last year, she has showcased her dedication to providing outstanding service during a call from a suicidal male whom she maintained contact with while simultaneously dispatching crew in time to prevent life-threatening injuries. She also managed a large grass fire in the midst of a base-wide communications outage using outside-the-box thinking to link first responders and elevate the safety and accountability of on-scene personnel. She has also taken on the responsibility of aggregating all incident response data to identify positive or negative trends and serves as the point for all equipment maintenance within the dispatch center.
Markus Krueger, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, was directly responsible for approx. 25% of the department's total response volume. His critical dispatch operations included critical and life-threatening medical calls (cardiac, motor vehicle accidents, industrial trauma, etc.), aircraft inflight and ground emergencies on USAFE and NATO's largest airfield, in addition to structural responses to high priority facilities. In 2021 alone, he provided incredible service to his community during countless incidents, including an infant suffering cardiac arrest, coordinating care for a passenger of a military flight suffering from a heart attack, a male who survived a 40-foot fall from a dormitory, and expertly managing 11 medical emergencies in the short span of five hours ensuring swift and effective care for all despite exhausting the base’s prehospital care system.
Staff Sergeant Daniel Salmeron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, displayed exemplary dispatching skills while receiving a 911 call for a cardiac arrest emergency. He immediately initiated basic life support and advanced life support response to a patient that was unconscious and unresponsive and was able to calm the frantic caller while seamlessly coaching them through CPR.
On Nov. 3, 2021, Senior Airman Sheldon Wagner, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, received a 911 call for a three-month-old child that had choked, was not breathing, and was possibly in cardiac arrest. He immediately dispatched Engine 22 and Medic 28. Engine 22 arrived on the scene first, and upon arrival notified Airman Wanger the three-month-old patient had visible cyanosis in the limbs and a ghost-white face. He utilized his resources to update the medics that were responding, and coordinate the rapid transport of the infant to the nearest medical treatment facility off base. He expertly performed a pre-brief with the emergency room doctors and constantly updated them with any new or pertinent information. While doing this, he also maintained constant contact with the medical team while they transported and stabilized the infant until the crew was able to transfer the patient to the emergency pediatric team, who then further coordinated a medical evacuation flight to a higher level of care.