"Here they come to save the day!"

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alessandra N. Hurley
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
When disaster strikes, Airmen of the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron are ready to respond faster than ever thanks to upgrades to their Monaco D-21 fire alarm system.

The emergency response system has been upgraded over the last two years with the capability to respond to more threats than just fire alarms.

As of May 2010, the Enhanced-911 dispatch center now allows Airmen of the 28th CES fire department to directly respond to 911 calls dialed in from any base land line, instead of first routing them through Rapid City. Calls to 911 from cell phones are still received in Rapid City first.

Tech. Sgt. Joseph Nix, 28th CES fire department NCO in charge of the E-911 dispatch center, said the new capabilities greatly enhance Airmen's abilities to respond to accidents and incidents. He and his team members are notified first whenever a threat is present, and receive the call to an emergency prior to the Emergency Operations Center's activation.

Some of Sergeant Nix and the E-911 Airmen's daily responsibilities include responding to 911 calls from any land line on base and dispatching emergency crews during medical, aircraft and structural emergencies. Several of the base's emergency vehicles are equipped with tracking systems which correspond to the E-911 dispatch center.

"We have tracking devices on five vehicles, including two command vehicles, one rescue, one primary engine and one HAZMAT response vehicle," Sergeant Nix said. "Our state-of-the-art dispatch system allows us to see exactly when they leave, track their position en route on a map, and know exactly when they arrive on scene."

The E-911 dispatch center not only shows Sergeant Nix the exact location of all dispatch vehicles in real time on an interactive map of the base, but also allows him and other dispatchers to see immediately if there is an emergency in any of the buildings, and establish perimeters around areas where a bomb threat may be present.

"If an Airman from 28th CES Explosive Ordnance Disposal calls in and tells me they need a safety perimeter around a certain structure, I am able to visualize the perimeter and alert all personnel within that perimeter to evacuate the area," he said. "Personnel in our dispatch vehicles can also see the perimeter on the screens of laptops in each vehicle that has a tracker."

The E-911 dispatch center also allows Sergeant Nix and his co-workers to communicate directly with Airmen in the command and control center, and the EOC, as well.

The first response dispatch center uses two phone lines; one primary line to receive urgent calls reporting aircraft incidents directly from the control tower, and a secondary line which receives communication from the command post and base operations. The calls are broadcast throughout the building by a public announcement system which alerts Airmen of the incident.

When an emergency is reported within a building on base, controllers have the capability to override the PA system's automated voice recording in each building with the system installed by speaking directly to occupants in the building from a microphone at his desk. Sergeant Nix and other controllers can then deliver information regarding weather warnings or provide other specific instructions such as shelter in place or evacuate through specific exits.

"If more than one building is affected by an incident, I am able to notify each building simultaneously with our mass notification system, rather than losing precious time by having to alert residents in one building at a time," Sergeant Nix said.

In addition to enhancing the ability of the 28th CES to respond more effectively and efficiently, the improvements to Ellsworth's response center greatly benefit other first responders. Together, E-911 Airmen, hazardous materials handlers, firefighters and 28th SFS base defense operations Airmen ensure success of the Ellsworth mission by keeping its community safe.

"We use a multi-lateral approach to keep our Airmen, civilians and families safe," Sergeant Nix said. "For instance, with our caller ID, we are able to see exactly where a 911 call is coming from. And, if we lose connection with the caller, we are able to call that person right back. If for some reason, there is no answer, we immediately notify security personnel to go check it out and make sure everyone is safe. We also have the capability to conference with security forces if we receive calls related to domestic violence or medical alerts."

Sergeant Nix credits the success of Ellsworth's emergency management not only to upgrades made to the dispatch center, but also to the teamwork among first responders, who work together to react quickly and effectively to accidents and incidents on base or in the local community.

"It's definitely a joint effort and we're just a small piece of the puzzle," Sergeant Nix said. "We go where they need us and respond according to the complexity of the incident."