Operating the Single-Staffed Emergency Dispatch Center

John O’Brien shares how one person can manage inbound and outbound communications at a dispatch center.


In decades past, when we thought of fire pre-planning, we thought of apparatus placement and hose evolutions specific to buildings within our districts. From the 1980's on, computer aided dispatch centers, some as small as they are, still boast some of the best computer technology the fire and EMS communications have to offer. Many agencies, large and small, have building pre-plan information for the commercial structures within each district. With all the many tools of the emergency communication trade, this is no doubt the most important feature to the incident commanders and their firefighters.

Whereas the plans have information from contacts, gas, electric, and occupancy information, it is the construction and hazardous material information that prove most urgent. New CAD programs have the ability to flash critical issues on the dispatcher's main screen, such as truss, orientated strand board (OSB), gypsum roofs, or high hazmat contents. This is all critical information that a chief must have before deploying their firefighters at a major fire.

Upon the chief's radioed response, the dispatcher can quickly acknowledge with information that they are responding to a "truss constructed building with hazardous materials." This flags the chief to review his paper preplan or mobile computer system further, depending on their technology.

Wishing all of you a successful career in our extremely important public service positions.


JOHN J. O'BRIEN is the District Supervisor of the Jericho Fire District in New York. He has over 30 years of dispatch and supervisory experience and is also certified in Emergency Medical Dispatch. He is a 33-year member, EMT, and active ex-chief of the East Meadow, NY, Fire Department and is the Long Island Regional Sales Representative of the Fire-End & Croker Corporation. You can contact John by e-mail at: JOBrien@JerichoFD.Org.