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Mark C. Biron
Fort Wainwright PAO
The Fort Wainwright Emergency Communications Center has upgraded and consolidated medical, fire and police calls into one dispatch center.
"We used to handle only fire calls, but now we are a fully functional dispatch center," said chief dispatcher and ECC supervisor Krista Greenleaf.
The center now has upgraded computer systems as well.
"We have (a) new computer system, but still have a lot of software to upgrade. We've started using the Priority Dispatch System," she said.
The center also has a larger staff and is always open.
"The center used to run with three dispatchers, and now we have a staff of 10, plus the center supervisor. The ECC is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week with not less than two dispatchers on a shift," Greenleaf said.
The consolidated ECC has streamlined the dispatch process as well.
"We consolidated the ECC to make it easier on all the services involved, especially the caller needing help," Greenleaf said. "For instance, if we have a police incident that involves injuries, we can immediately dispatch an ambulance. This saves a lot of time. We get the calls and dispatch the proper personnel."
The ECC gets a variety of calls.
"We get all the 911 calls on post, and we get the after-hours trouble calls for on-post housing," said dispatcher Zach Boone. "A lot of our calls are not even related to emergency services. Many of our calls are public assistance calls. 'My car is stuck in the snow,' is a common call."
The ECC also monitors all fire and security alarms on post.
"When the alarms go off, we dispatch the proper emergency personnel," Boone said.
Dispatchers have long workdays.
"The ECC works two fully staffed shifts a day," Greenleaf said. "Our dispatchers work 12 hours a day for four days and have three days off."
Dispatchers undergo extensive training.
"Our dispatchers are trained by Priority Dispatch Corporation and are certified by the National Academy of Emergency Dispatch," Greenleaf said. "New dispatchers train for four weeks, getting a combination of classroom and on-the-job training, learning protocols or standard procedures to assist callers with all types of emergencies."
Most of the dispatchers are veteran Alaskans.
"Our dispatchers are confident and experienced," Greenleaf said. "Most have prior military service and are from Alaska and understand the problems weather can cause. They understand that being locked out of a car or home is an emergency. They know what the weather can do to people and vehicles."
The ECC phone numbers should be kept near the phone, she said
"The best number to call in an emergency is 911," Greenleaf said. "For (all other) fire-related issues, call 353-9170, and for police issues, call 353-7535."