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104th Fighter Wing firefighters answer the calls for help

Caleb Holden, 104th Fighter Wing firefighter, prepares to answer 911 calls in the Fire Department alarm room April 18, 2019, at Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts. The firefighter on shift in the alarm room is reponsible for answering emergency calls and ensuring the proper aid is sent to assist.

Caleb Holden, 104th Fighter Wing firefighter, prepares to answer 911 calls in the Fire Department alarm room April 18, 2019, at Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts. The firefighter on shift in the alarm room is reponsible for answering emergency calls and ensuring the proper aid is sent to assist.

WESTFIELD, Mass. – The responsibility of being a dispatcher at the 104th Fighter Wing fire department is an important one, as the dispatcher working in the alarm room is involved with emergency response situations from start to finish.

It is the dispatcher’s job to obtain the critical information from the caller, disseminate that information to the responding team and ensure all required assets, such as an ambulance, are being sent to respond to the call, all while helping the person on the other end of the line remain calm.

The firefighters here are all trained to work in the alarm room, and they realize how crucial it is to be proficient at the job.

“It’s really one of the most important jobs that we have,” said Fire Lt. Travis Witbeck, 104th Fire Department shift lieutenant. “We spend a lot of time training our people to do it well.”

If a member dials 911 from a base phone, the fire department can see precisely what building and room that person is calling from. If a member dials 911 on a cellphone, they will reach a dispatcher at a local fire department.

Firefighters here have different ways to rapidly communicate with the local dispatchers, such as a direct line to the City of Westfield and specialized radios, which aid in the dissemination of information after someone dials 911 from a cellphone.

The direct lines and radios also serve as a way for surrounding communities to send mutual aid requests. According to Witbeck, this is how they are requested to go out and support the surrounding communities.

Witbeck said the dispatchers do a lot of in house training, and many attend a telecommunications course to ensure they can perform at a high level when assigned to work in the alarm room. The dispatcher is involved from start to finish, and has one of the most critical roles in emergency response, he said.

“It can get pretty hectic in there, depending on the complexity of the incident,” said Witbeck. “It’s really crucial for us to have that person in there with all of that information and the ability to do what they do.”

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