What Makes the Phoenix Fire Department Regional Dispatch Center Unique?
I knew going into the tour that the dispatch center was unique, but I was blown away by all of the programs that are in place. For example, the Computer Aided Dispatch system is designed to provide Automatic Aid to anyone in need. The CAD does not take typical jurisdictional boundaries into consideration. Instead, whoever calls for help will be aided by the closest possible participating agency, regardless of which city they are from.
Believe it or not, this concept is not widespread because of budgetary constraints and concerns over jurisdictional guidelines. Therefore, it was really uplifting to see the Automatic Aid system in place. This method of getting help to people as quickly as possible has also certainly saved many lives!
Camelback Mountain Rescues
Most fire departments spend the majority of their time helping people with lift assists and other emergency first responder tasks. Of course, they also take care of any applicable fires, but these usually happen much less frequently than people might assume.
The Phoenix Dispatch Center handles calls for 23 districts, and they help people who end up lost or injured on Camelback Mountain. This type of search and rescue operation is much more complicated than the tasks that most firefighters take on, which makes the dispatch center even more invaluable to the local community.
Helicopter hoist and hazmat rescuer Jeffrey Zientek was kind enough to give me some information about the Camelback Mountain rescues. When it is time to put this type of operation into action, the team can launch the Phoenix Fire/Police ‘Firebird’ or the Ranger 41 to quickly reach their desired location. Each of these helicopters is specially equipped to deal with factors such as wildfires and emergency medical transportation.
Zientek also discussed the importance of using the Hazmat Response A Field Operations Guide (FOG Facebook page) that he authored to keep everyone safe while dealing with potentially hazardous materials. Again, this specialized knowledge goes beyond the general public’s perception of what a firefighter does, and it is a very good thing that the Phoenix Dispatch Center has this program. After all, a hazmat scene can be dangerous to anyone in the nearby area, and a fire or explosion can cause widespread issues.
I am very grateful to everyone at the Regional Dispatch Center for enabling me to learn more about their services. Every fire department has its own unique skills and challenges, but it would be really nice to see more areas adopt the Automatic Aid approach to offer the quickest and best possible assistance to people in need.
Photo Credits: Matt Chesin