Who ya gonna call? 911 from a base phone

  • Published
  • By Mr. Randall Burlingame
  • 104th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 104th Civil Engineering Squadron fire alarm communications center is staffed by a minimum of one firefighter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

While working in the communications center firefighters respond to a variety of calls including medical emergencies, in-flight emergencies, and building alarms.

“Our dispatchers are the first step of any emergency,” said Lt. Travis Witbeck, 104 CES firefighter. “They are responsible for gaining all pertinent information regarding the emergency so that they can make the determination as to what the appropriate response will be. All of this is done in minutes and requires a substantial amount of skill and knowledge.”

Lt. Thomas Zuffelato, 104 CES firefighter, said it is important for people to know how to call in an emergency on base. If an Airman dials 911 from a base phone it goes directly to the the operators at the fire department and 104th Security Forces Squadron.

If they dial 911 from a personal phone, they will be calling a municipal dispatcher off base. This can result in a slower response time due to the off base fire departments having to travel further in those situations.

“This is a pretty critical spot,” said Zuffelato. “It’s where all the action starts. If people on base don’t understand the 911 system it slows our response. Somebody’s life could be at stake.”

According to Witbeck, once the information is obtained, the fire alarm communications center operator will send an emergency alert tone throughout the station and radio alerting the appropriate crews to an emergency.

Once the appropriate crews are alerted, the fire alarm communications center operator is responsible for logging all pertinent call information, such as units enroute, arriving, incident bench marks, or events. While this is occurring, the dispatchers are also responsible for ensuring that appropriate agencies and offices, both on base and off base, are contacted.

Security professionals in the 104 SFS also handle emergency calls from the base defense operations center. They coordinate all base defense efforts and are capable of deploying a quick reaction force when needed. Zuffelato said that command post and the maintenance operations center can also be considered to be part of the dispatch package.

Zuffelato said that helping a caller calm down and talking them through the situation during an emergency is crucial.

“If you get a call and something is going on, it jars you,” said Zuffelato. “Are they bleeding? Are they breathing? What are they doing? You have to get all the information. Rescue is two minutes away. Stay on the phone and they will be there.”