Many people ask me "where does my call to 9-1-1 go, and what happens once my call is taken?" The answer is fairly simple; however, the inner-workings are quite complex.
When you dial 9-1-1, your call goes to the Flathead County 9-1-1 Center located near Glacier High School. When your call is received, information on a computer screen shows your phone number and, in most cases, your location. You're asked what your emergency is, where you are so as to verify your location, and the pertinent information of the assistance needed. You may be asked to remain on the line, depending on the emergency; in the case of fire or carbon monoxide exposure/ gas odor incident, it will be strongly suggested that you leave the building. Sometimes it may seem that you are asked a lot of questions, and sometimes that is true- the more information received, the safer the response and the greater the ability to dispatchedappropriate resources.
It is a simple deal from the caller's end, but within the 9-1-1 Center, technology is everywhere. Once the 9-1-1 dispatcher has the information needed, that person dispatches the emergency service provider for the area. Whether fire, medical or law enforcement is needed, the dispatcher make sure response is on the way. In the case of Creston Fire, our dispatches are received via radio or pager and text services. We are dispatched for all fire-related emergencies, smoke investigations, medical emergencies, vehicle crashes and all kinds of other things that might make one go "hmmm?" Fire departments are kind of the clearing house when Ghostbusters are not available.
After receiving a page for an emergency response, our members who are available respond from their homes, work or wherever they may be. This is the reality of volunteer fire departments, because we don't normally have fire fighters waiting at a station for the next call. In the Creston Fire District, we respond from four fire stations which are located in strategic areas to reduce our response times. For large events, response will come from all stations, as well as from our closest neighboring fire department through an Automatic Aid Agreement. If additional help is needed, we can also call on other fire departments that lie farther from the fire district.
The people of Creston Fire who come to assist you in times of emergency come from all walks of life. Regardless of their day job, they are well trained and have expertise to take care of the incident. Many of our members are emergency medical technicians who take care of medical emergencies with the assistance of other fire fighters. In the case of fire or rescue situations, the EMTs assist the fire fighters' efforts by setting up rehab stations, monitoring for things like heat exhaustion and making sure our fire fighters are hydrated at all times.
At Creston Fire, we do not transport patients; we work with neighboring agencies that provide those services. It is not economically feasible or realistic to expect staffing of an ambulance through strictly volunteer efforts. We do, however, provide patient stabilization, rescue, injury treatment and a myriad of other services.
Finally, I want to acknowledge what I think is the most important asset of your fire department: the people who serve as volunteer fire fighters. Their level of commitment is extraordinary. These fire fighters ask for nothing in return for their service other than knowing they have the best equipment and training available and that their leadership will provide a culture that will keep them safe. We have responded more than 300 times in each of the last two years, and each time our members have gone home to their families. From a fire chief's perspective, this is success, and making it even better is that we helped a lot of people along the way.
Learn more about your fire department and the efforts of its dedicated, hardworking volunteers. Call 406-250-7396 for more information.