Thursday, February 8, 2007

Some days at work are better than others. Wednesday was not one of them!

I had a sneaky feeling that it wasn't going to be a good day even before I left the house when my pager went off advising me that a particular road in Norwich was closed due to a working structure fire. For those of you who aren't familiar with fire terms, a working structure fire means that a structure is on fire and firefighters are working at putting it out. Leastways I think that's what it means!

The road in question wasn't one that I had to worry about traveling but whenever there's a working structure fire in the area, American Ambulance sends out what is called the Rehab Unit. In a nutshell that's a trailer that is equipped with heaters, blankets, hot beverages, water, medical supplies, etc - anything that is needed to help firefighters who are battling not only smoke and flames but also weather elements like extreme hot and extreme cold.

Having never been bitten by the 'fire bug' myself, I have no desire to don 80+ pounds of turn-out gear and battle a fire but I have come to know a lot of people who do and from them I've learned that fighting fires can be pretty intense. It only makes good sense to have equipment nearby to help these guys out - a lot of whom are volunteers with their local departments.

Upon getting turn-over from the midnight dispatcher I was informed that, sure enough, a crew had been at the fire scene with the Rehab Unit and I was going to have to figure out who was going to go down to replace them as the current crew was off at 0700 hours (7:00 a.m. to you non-military types). Not everyone who works at American as an EMT or Paramedic is trained on the Rehab Unit so before anyone can be sent, one has to consult the list of qualified people and see who's working that can go.

What that meant for me was that I was going to drop down a full BLS car when I sent that crew to replace the crew that was already at the standby. On top of that, there were two burn victims of the fire and it sounded like we would be transporting at least one, if not both, to the closest hospital with a Burn Center. In our neck of the woods, that just happens to be Bridgeport Hospital which is about 75 miles south of us. Needless to say, it wouldn't be a quick trip.

The first hour of my day went by relatively okay and then someone seemed to open up the floodgates somewhere as I took several emergency calls, a couple of long-distance transfers (including the expected one to Bridgeport), and the hospitals that we service started calling in with one discharge after another. This was all in addition to the calls that were already scheduled on the spreadsheet laid out in front of me.

Soon I had every car at my disposal out running calls and yet the phones kept ringing. Add on to that a suspected HazMat spill at one of the local elementary schools developed and before you knew it I was giving serious consideration to biting my nails as I found myself starting to clench my teeth! Every time I thought I had a little bit of breathing room, the phones would ring again and I'd have to juggle things around a little more.

The crew at the fire standby with the Rehab Unit cleared from there basically just in time to go to the elementary school for the HazMat spill as somehow a small batch of white powder had turned into a Level 3 HazMat incident which took up two additional ambulances along with the Rehab Unit. Things were not looking good as I started to wear out my eraser moving calls from one spot on the spreadsheet to another.

Shortly after that I had to put two of the guys who work in dispatch that are also EMTs out on the road with medics to make up a couple of cars as I had run out of regularly scheduled road people and I had a need for more ambulances. Before the day was done the Director of Operations, the Director of Quality Assurance, and the guy who does the mountains of paperwork that we generate were all out running calls in various parts of the city. Falls, seizures, chest pains, alcohol intoxication, difficulty breathing - it seemed like if there was an ailment out there, someone was calling in with it!

It wasn't until 2000 hours (for the militarily challenged, 8:00 p.m.) that I finally had a clear screen on the computer in front of me. No calls were glaring at me from the open work module, there was some white space actually showing on the spreadsheet, and I could at long last breathe a sigh of relief after what had been one of the busiest and most stressful days that I can remember in awhile. Granted, calls kept coming in but at least it was at a slower pace that didn't require a high level of erasing or teeth-clenching!

I'm sure it would have been much worse were it not for the expertise of my Supervisor and his many years on the job (he always seems to make it look easy - damn the man!) but I have to say that I was quite glad when 2300 hours (11:00 p.m.) finally rolled around and I could put another double shift behind me for another week.

For all I know, today is going to be just as busy but I'm not going to worry about it as it's my day off and I plan on spending it not thinking about work. Unless, of course, I hear a siren wail past the house ...


  1. Good grief, Linda! I think you SHOULD wear a big "S" on your shirt - for Super Dispatcher! Not for nothing, but it does feel like it's gotten crazier at work lately...'specially in the mornings between 5-7am. Have you noticed any other trends recently? Unfortunately, our early AM messes are left for you & the daytime folks to clean up - bless you all!

  2. I would never trade places with a dispatcher, I squirm at the the tought of how much they tackle before ever giving us a call. I always try to treat them good knowing what they deal with, thanks for what you do- the cop,
    of course, breaking up a volleyball game by hose-monkeys is always fun

  3. I agree with sgt.. I could never do that job and I'm sure many others couldn't as well. It takes a special person.. like you! Having to remain calm and focused in such stressful times.. wow! You're amazing!

  4. Bloody hell! what a tough day you had! Get that tea brewing you really deserve it!

  5. My kind of gal, handle what ever happens.....good job just in case no one told you

  6. Thank you all ever so much for your kind words and the pats on the back - I appreciate them all!

    Out of curiosity I asked Jen, one of my dispatch partners, what the numbers were for yesterday and we ended up with:

    225 TOTAL

    27 - ALS Transports

    116 - BLS Transports

    72 - Wheelchair Van Transports

    8 - Paramedic Intercepts

    2 - Specialty Care Transports

    Yep, I knew we were busy!!

    Claire, as for that tea, it's brewing now and should be ready in a few!

  7. Wow Linda, sounds like one of them days again, which I can tell you I don't necessarily I have to say the "It will be sooo much easier @ QV" thing isn't that easy. Come to find out, the no crew, i'll just tone out another one, doesn't work as expected, and when you have Griswold paid crew, Canterbury Amb., Mortlake paid crew, and KB paid crew all out on calls at the same time, it's kind of hard to cover Griswold to Killingly with Moosup's ambulance... I feel the pain.. A side note, throw a hello to Claire for me, been trying to find someone to chat with as far as where to go this summer. Decided I'm going to visit the fam in Scotland, and trying to figure out where I want to go sightseeing. TTYL Bouk


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