For the past several days, we have learned to respect and appreciate our first responders, more than ever.  In Boston, we viewed the aftermath of two explosions, deliberately set to kill and hurt runners and bystanders at the Boston Marathon.  Within seconds, there were runners helping those who had been injured- police, firemen, SWAT teams, paramedics, EMT students, and physicians swarmed the scenes to treat and rush the victims to hospitals. 

Miles away, in the small town of West, Texas, again, the heroics were played out when a fire started near a fertilizer plant, and volunteer firefighters, paramedics and EMT students rushed to try to put out the blaze and assist with  injured.  Suddenly, the heat came too near ammonium nitrate being stored in the facility, and a huge explosion happened.  The explosion devastated a four-block radius of the plant, and many families have lost everything they had.  The death toll is now estimated to be 14, with the vast majority of those being first responders.  Approximately 200 persons were injured. 

It’s events such as these that we realize how truly important our first responders are.  This past week was spotlighted as National Public Safety Telecommunications Education Week, in order to promote awareness of proper practices when calling the emergency assistance number.  Behind the scenes, there are highly trained professionals who are the first persons to answer this life-saving number when a call is made.  Dispatchers take the calls and coordinate the response of emergency medical services, fire department, or local law enforcement.  

When 9-1-1 services are needed, we should understand how to place the call, as well as educate our children, too.  It is important that we describe the situation as carefully as possible, and give out any landmarks in order to assist the responders in finding your location.  Don’t text 9-1-1, as it won’t be received.  Don’t become frustrated with the dispatcher’s questions, as he/she probably already have a unit on the way, but it is helpful to the responding team to have as much advance information as possible. 

If you should call 9-1-1 by mistake, don’t hang up, because there will probably be a unit sent to your address.  Just stay on the line and explain what happened.  Teach your children never to play a prank call on anyone, especially that important number. 

Dispatchers are screened thoroughly and receive classroom and on-the-job training.  They are entrusted with medical information as well as the law enforcement side of the occasion. Stop and think how fortunate we are to have seen the display of courage that law enforcement, firefighters and medical teams play on an every-day basis.  It is times like these that we need to stop and be thankful that they stand at the ready.  And give a pat on the back to those dispatchers and others in the 9-1-1 call center that can save lives with a speedy response or just knowing how to talk to persons who are in highly emotional states at that time.

As has been mentioned several times: when there is an emergency, our fire departments, healthcare providers and law enforcement are headed toward the situation when everyone else is running away.