Recently, we had an incident in our jail which is next to dispatch. An inmate accidentally mixed some cleaning chemicals that reacted with each other. The result was the jail and the adjoining courts were evacuated due to a noxious cloud in the ventilating system. The dispatch center did not evacuate, despite the recommendation by the FD that it should be evacuated.
The dispatchers on duty stayed at their stations while dispatch, the jail and courts were being ventilated during the incident. Our supervisor now wants to have an SCBA put in dispatch for a dispatcher to wear should this happen again. From what I understand, the SCBA would be worn so the dispatcher could stay at their station and man the radios and phones.
My question is this- Do any of your dispatch centers have SCBA in them to protect the dispatchers on duty?
Right now, as a long-time firefighter, I am against putting SCBA in dispatch. Reason #1 is my supervisor (non-FF) only thinks we need one SCBA. IMHO we would need a minimum of three SCBA due to the staff in dispatch. No one in a toxic atmosphere should be left alone just because they have an SCBA on.
Reason #2 is if the atmosphere is hazardous enough to require SCBA, we should evacuate the building for dispatcher safety. The exit to the building from dispatch is about twenty feet across the lobby from the dispatch entrance. It would be faster to exit the building than it would be to don an SCBA.
Reason #3 is most of the staff are not trained firefighters and have no experience wearing SCBA in an emergency. Besides myself, there is only one other dispatcher that is a firefighter. After donning the SCBA, they would be required to sit at their console and answer phones and talk on the radio while wearing it. That is not realistic in my opinion. Training would be required so they would become proficient in wearing SCBA.
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Thread: SCBA In Dispatch?
01-30-2009, 10:36 PM #1
SCBA In Dispatch?
01-30-2009, 11:21 PM #2
In my own opinion.... Thats ridiculous
For most of the reasons you stated. There needs to be a workable plan for a backup dispatch center.
We recently went thru a similar issue with a CO event. The dispatch center had 800ppm, but the powers to be did not want to evacuate. We pushed the issue. The severity of the situation became more clear to the bosses when one of their dispatchers, whos was pregnant, had to be flown to a facility with a hyperbaric chamber.
The have now developed a backup plan to evacuate rather than endanger the staff.Buckle Up, Slow Down, Arrive Alive
"Everybody Goes Home"
01-31-2009, 12:12 AM #3
Unfortunately for us, the dispatch center where we can forward our 911 calls in case our system goes down is 60 miles away in another county. We have no backup dispatch here. We can go to the local PD from crime computer access and the page from the local fire department, but our radio capability would be very limited.
We had another situation once where the courthouse and jail were evacuated for a bomb threat but the dispatchers stayed in the building. Fortunately, it was a hoax.
01-31-2009, 12:28 AM #4
how about N-95 mask and evacuate?
02-02-2009, 05:46 PM #5
- Join Date
- Nov 2007
I have to go with the majority on this one...
There is no reason why you should be wearing SCBA and remaining at your duty location in the Comm Center. All for the reasons already stated.
Looking at the deeper issue you need to have a back up plan that includes a secondary dispatch facility. DHS has a grant program out there that is just for this purpose. I am not involved in grant writing but I have seen it on the Web Site (DHS.GOV) They call it the Emergency Operations Center program or something similar. It is sure worth looking into.
02-02-2009, 05:52 PM #6
What he wants to do is most likely completely 100% without a doubt illegal. OSHA would have a meltdown over that.Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.
02-10-2009, 04:28 PM #7
- Join Date
- Apr 2000
- IL, USA
There absolutely needs to be a plan for what happens when the dispatch center needs to be evacuated. NFPA 1221 Section 4.1.4 states:
"Each jurisdiction shall maintain an alternate communications center that meets criteria in 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206"
Even if you don't meet the NFPA requirement, common sense dictates you have some kind of plan. The SCBA thing is crazy. What will the general public think when they hear Darth Vader answer 911 (if they can even understand the person wearing the SCBA)? Even if you were to use an SCBA in the chemical exposure situation, what about a fire or building collapse? You'll need to evacuate for sure then, and need to have a plan for when it happens.
02-10-2009, 08:37 PM #8
- Join Date
- Jul 2001
- Not the end of the earth but I can see it from here...
Where I work, our dispatch center (industrial facility/Emergency Services) has a provision for breathing air for the dispatcher. Since we operate in a chemical plant, it is entirely conceivable that our dispatch center might be downwind of a major release and have to be evacuated. The breathing air is piped in with an air hose reel and masks at each dispatch station. It is ONLY intended for temporary use while our backup dispatch is being activated and the vehicle access gate being shut down. Once this is done, the dispatcher can unplug from the airline and use the attached escape respirator to evacuate the building. I've yet to see it used (and naturally I wonder how smoothly it would work if we actually had to do it), but the provision is there.Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
"I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream — and I hope you don't find this too crazy — is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
— C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"
02-18-2009, 09:45 PM #9
SCBA in dispatch?
Only if the other dispatchers have been eating beans (picture the camp fire scene in Blazing Saddles ), otherwise, GET YOUR BUTT OUT!
If the atmosphere requires a SCBA, then it is IDLH and you don't want to be there."Your spill is our thrill."
02-23-2009, 11:49 AM #10
- Join Date
- Dec 2006
I actually worked in a center that had three packs in it. However, being a fire instructor I understand that to wear an SCBA or other respirator device you must be trained and fit tested. Is your agency going to pay to do the OSHA fit testing, physical, and training? Seems more reasonable to evacuate and send the phones to another PSAP.
02-23-2009, 12:49 PM #11
- Join Date
- Nov 2008
In the long run, it would be easier and alot more practical to simply install an independant HVAC system for the dispatch center. And install a system that is immune from CO issues such as a Hydo Air system with the boiler fully isolated from the dispatch center.
Sure, your talking in the realm of 20-30k for such a system, but your easily going to spend 10k on SCBA's to fully equip the staff in the center, PLUS training, PLUS the task of cylinder changeouts untill the incident is over and the awkwardness of having to operate phones and radio communication while wearing an SCBA. It's a logistical nightmare. Each dispatcher will have to be fit tested and now you have to worry about having enough of the right size masks always available depending on the staff on duty. And keeping one person in the center with the SCBA as has been mentioned before is impractical and dangerous. You should never have a person alone in an IDLH atmosphere, let alone somebody with minimal training at best. Now your going to let this person operate your communications system alone under that stress? Many departments as it is have far too few SCBA's, now you need to allot more for the dispatch centers? and they have to be the same brand and for the most part model to be interchangeable.
My full time job on the railroad has me dealing with a dispatch center as well. And they too cannot simply shutdown the center in the event of a fire, flood or air quality issue. Shutting down our center would require shutting down thousands of miles of track and the trains on them.
But equipping the entire staff with SCBA's and training the dispatchers is simply not an option. Our center has a 100% isolated HVAC system using as mentioned above, a Hydo Air heating system. So it is physically impossible for any products of combustion to enter the dispatch center. And because it uses hot water and not steam, there is added hazard from that. A location specific Halon system that can be shutoff instantly is installed as well. The entire facility is constucted of masonry and metals. For all intensive purposes, it's fireproof. There is very little that could ever force an evacuation. While i understand many communities have limited budgets, when it comes to critical needs, a dispatching center should be one of them.
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