Behind the Scenes of an Emergency
August 29, 2019 9:00 AM
by Robert Brunner
The Office of Emergency Management’s Public Safety Communications Center consists of Fire, Police and Emergency Medical Dispatchers who work 24/7, 365 days a year to answer the 9-1-1 calls in Santa Monica and facilitate emergency dispatch communications to personnel in the field.
Bob Brunner, a Public Safety Communications dispatcher, provides his personal account of OEM dispatchers working to handle a large, complex incident at the Wyndham Hotel the morning of May 25 at 2:17 a.m. There were six of us on duty in the Communications Center that night; Fire radio (Fire Comm), PD radio (Hotseat), and four 9-1-1 call-takers. Just after midnight, the 9-1-1 lines lit up with an accident in front of the Wyndham Hotel. “Three cars involved – car into the wall – two males on the ground, unresponsive.”
Fire Comm sent a Santa Monica Fire truck company for any structural integrity concerns, and two ambulances for injuries. Hotseat sent Santa Monica Police to control the scene and investigate the crash. The first units on scene found more injuries than previously reported. They also found a water main break which was flooding the scene. More ambulances and engines were put en route. While the radio personnel were fielding requests and updates from the Wyndham, calls for service kept coming in. One of these was a smoke alarm activation at – of all places – the Wyndham Hotel.
At the same time as the alarm call, an officer on scene confirmed a fire in the hotel’s sub garage. The water-main break deprived the hotel’s fire sprinkler pump of water. While the pump tried to regain its needed pressure, it overheated due to lack of water, triggering a fire in the building. Now resources on scene pivoted. With all five patients transported, SMFD worked to locate and fight the fire. SMPD split resources between investigation and hotel evacuation.
In the Communications Center, we continued to take incoming calls for service as well as making notification calls to SMFD and SMPD leadership, Public Works for the water-main break, and Big Blue Bus to give the 200 displaced hotel guests someplace warm for temporary shelter. Eventually, the fire was put out, the guests returned to the hotel, the scene cleared, and the next call was answered.