Emergency dispatchers are known for being calm under fire, but sometimes they have to have the deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes.
Here is a case in point.
During the evening of Oct. 20, Astoria 9-1-1 Dispatch received a call from a person who reported he had fallen down a ravine. The caller went on to say he was off of Seventh?Street in Cannon Beach. After taking the initial information Astoria 9-1-1 transferred the caller to Seaside 9-1-1, as Cannon Beach is in their jurisdiction.
A short time later Astoria 9-1-1 received a call from a person reporting his father had run off the road and was in need of immediate assistance. The caller told the 9-1-1 operator that when he called his father's cell phone his father answered saying, "I need help I'm in a ditch." The caller went on to tell the dispatcher that his parents were probably driving between Astoria and Cape Disappointment in Washington.
The Astoria dispatcher contacted Pacific County 9-1-1 and relayed this information to them. The Astoria dispatcher also told Pacific County that the person believed his father might be off Seventh Street. Pacific County took over the call and began dispatching units to check the area of Seventh Street in Long Beach.
While this was happening, Seaside 9-1-1 was also dispatching emergency units from Cannon Beach Fire Department to look for the person or his vehicle that had been reported to be off the road on Seventh Street.
By then it was becoming clear to all the 9-1-1 dispatchers that these calls were most probably related and that the locations given were not adding up. Because each of the 9-1-1 dispatchers had an intimate knowledge of these areas it just did not seem plausible as neither of the two Seventh streets had steep embankments. And it was becoming apparent to both Pacific County and Seaside 9-1-1 Centers that the caller had given the wrong location.
At that point, Cannon Beach Fire Department was considering calling out the Clatsop County Search and Rescue Team to assist in locating the person just in case he fell or drove off the side of Ecola State Park Road.
Just then, Pacific County received a report of a disabled vehicle near Cape Disappointment. It was this report that then would prove to be the last piece of the puzzle. The disabled vehicle turned out to be the injured man's wife. Once contacted by law enforcement, she told officers her husband got out of the vehicle close by. With this new information EMS personnel were finally able to locate the man down in the bottom of a ravine off the side of the road leading to Cape Disappointment. Alcohol was a contributing factor to this incident and may have been responsible for the caller not giving clear directions to his location. One arrest was made for suspicion of driving under the influence of intoxicants.
The work done by the professional dispatchers at these three 9-1-1 Centers was commendable, said Jeff Rusiecki, manager of Astoria's 9-1-1 Dispatch Center. "Their compassion and concern was only heightened when the various agencies were unable to locate the scene. Each of these 9-1-1 professionals was intimately familiar with their areas of responsibility and they were determined to get help to the caller," Rusiecki said.
He pointed out that while the dispatchers at each of these centers were concentrating on locating the man in the ravine, they were also handling additional calls for service and responding to the ever-ringing 9-1-1 lines.
"Without the efforts of the dispatchers the ending could have been tragic," said Astoria Chief of Police Pete Curzon. "Though they will be recognized by their respective agencies, I felt it was important that the public know who these dedicated individuals are on the other end of the phone."
Those playing Sherlock were Seaside 9-1-1 dispatcher Shauna Wood, Astoria 9-1-1 dispatchers Summer Bartlett and Jodie Frost, and Pacific County 9-1-1 dispatchers Charla Clifton and Kathy Edmonson.