What Happens When You Dial 911?
Editor’s Note: One of our new contributors, Harry Blakeslee, lives in Brunswick Forest. As a new Brunswick County resident, he was curious about emergency services in the area, and set out to find out how the men and women of the Town of Leland and Brunswick County provide assistance when we need it most.
“911. What is your emergency?”
It’s the call no one wants to make. Fortunately, in Brunswick County, we have the trained personnel and the necessary technology in place to respond.
On average, 588 times a day, the Brunswick County 911 operators answer the call. Under Sheriff John Ingram and Director Tom Rogers, a team of life savers/telecommunicators works around the clock at the Government Center in Bolivia. The team listens attentively and responds almost instantaneously to dispatch one or more of 19 area towns and their 50+ agencies, including fire, police, Brunswick County EMS, animal control, social service, wrecker service, Red Cross, and other non-emergency departments, based on the nature of the call and location.
We should all know the process—when making a call to 911, callers must stay calm (which is often difficult), clearly state the nature of the emergency, and the location. (Note: Some land-line phone and all cell phones are set to show our physical location). The 911 operator will use that information to dispatch the appropriate agency(ies): county ambulance, local fire/rescue squad(s), police, animal control, etc. Often, ambulance and fire crews respond. Based on the nature, location, and size of the emergency, 911 may dispatch several agencies using mutual aid and automatic aid agreements. The professional staff at 911 is required to hold several licenses and certifications: Sheriff’s Training and Standards Certification, Emergency Medical Dispatch, Provider @ PR, and DCIN. They need not be Sheriff’s Deputies though.Chris Langl,
If the call comes in from the Leland area, what happens next? Earlier this year, census data showed that Leland was the fastest-growing town in the State. The Town of Leland’s Mission statement is: “We are dedicated to provide effective and fiscally responsible municipal services in a manner which promotes a high quality of life with a neighborly feel.” So how do each of the emergency services department bring this mission to life every day and meet the increasing needs of a growing community?
The Town’s three emergency service departments all report to Assistant Town Manager Missy Rhodes. With the addition of an Emergency Management Director and revision of the Town’s Emergency Operations Plan, the Town is staying focused on meeting current and future needs.
The Leland Fire/Rescue Department is led by 30-year veteran fireman Chief Chris Langlois. His mission to “Serve, Be Ready, and Create Excellent Outcomes” is much more than words on a wall. Each of the 33 full-time firefighters plus volunteers (off-duty firemen from neighboring departments) staff the Town’s two full-time stations: Station #52 on River Road and Station #51 on Village Road and one part-time station on Lanvale Road. According to Langlois, Station #51 will be re-furbished/rebuilt at 187 Old Lanvale Road, off Highway 17 as station #53 in May 2021 and Station #51 will relocate in June 2021 to 1987 Andrew Jackson Highway NE off 74/76. With two pumpers, one ladder truck, and rescue vehicle in the two stations, the crews work shifts of 24 hours on, 24 hours off, three times followed by four days off, year round. Additional vehicles will be needed for station #53. Vehicles are currently manned by three persons. All firefighters are required to have credentials as fire fighters and EMTs. Education is currently obtained at local community colleges, although, according to the chiefs, future plans of the fire and police departments include starting our own academy.
Dispatch of our daily average of seven calls to Leland Fire and Rescue is activated by telecommunication from Brunswick County 911 thru speakers in both fire stations. From January through September 2020, calls by type were: Rescue and Emergency Medical 57 percent; fires 4 percent; vehicles 12 percent, and false alarms/recalls 12 percent. On-duty personnel have a goal of seven minutes to reach the scene after being called out though this is constantly being re-evaluated and measured. Years ago, a house fire often took 13-15 minutes to engulf a room(s), but with synthetic materials now in home furnishing, that time has shrunk to three to four minutes. Leland’s plan for a third full-staffed fire station on Lanvale Road (Station #53) and re-location of Station # 51 from Village Road to the new Town operation center complex will help shorten response time while accommodating town growth, said Langlois.
Often a firetruck is also dispatched with a Brunswick County EMS ambulance dispatch and the fire truck arrives earlier. Why both? The possible need for extra manpower. Chief Langlois gave a couple examples: a heart attack victim weighing 300 pounds and on the second floor needing transport to a hospital or a scene with multiple injured citizens. The extra hands will help the two EMTs in the ambulance carry the patient or effectively triage multiple patients.
Plans for 2021 to re-open a relocated station # 51, open new station # 53, and populate with additional personnel each truck with four instead of three. With the added personnel, the truck can drop hoses when arriving to expedite pulling the hoses between the fire and any remaining occupants.
Brunswick County tax bills include fire fees for the Leland Fire Department. Leland fire protection rates a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10; a lower rating number reduces the cost of fire insurance, so investing in our fire department actually may be offset in reduced insurance premiums.
The Leland Police Department is ably led by 20-year veteran law enforcement officer, Chief Brad Shirley. Current staffing includes 40 full-time patrol officers/detectives, three administrative personnel, a K-9 unit, plus two Captains and the Chief.
All officers are required to be certified in North Carolina. Prior experience in other states or the military help shorten the learning curve; however, knowledge of North Carolina law is required. Certification can be obtained by attending local community colleges. Additional training and testing are an integral part of the Leland Police Department.
Notifications are received via cruiser on-board lap-top computer from the County’s 911 Center. The on-board computers list calls in progress, address, and which officer is handling the call. In 2019, Brunswick County logged 110,905 police calls; 59 percent of those were for the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Department, and the rest to the municipal police departments. Twelve percent of all 911 police calls were referred to the Leland police. The Leland Police Department averaged 37 calls per day, including vehicle accidents. When an over-sized event need occurs, 911 will notify other police departments for mutual aid. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation also has personnel located nearby to assist when needed. Any incarceration is handled by Brunswick County in Bolivia.
Staffing is determined using a methodology developed by the North Carolina Justice Academy (NCJA) as well as the scientific method established by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and is based on actual or estimated complaints or incidents also known as Calls for Service (CFS). The formula uses average complaint time (45 minutes), number of complaints/calls, officer hours of absence time, sick, vacation, training, and on-duty time available to drive the model. The models also estimate the handling of calls should be roughly 1/3 of the officer’s time, leaving time for meal breaks and preventive patrolling. Chief Shirley said he looks forward to adding two additional offices in January 2021 to accompany growth of Leland and that plans are to continue using Leland Town Hall as the Police Station without any substations.
LELAND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
Director John Grimes is Leland’s inaugural Emergency Management Director: Grimes was previously the Town’s fire chief. His years as Chief and 30-plus years in the community have given him extensive detailed knowledge of Leland’s roads, geography, weather history, and structures – both public and private. The role of the Emergency Management Department is multi-fold and includes anticipating future emergency needs and coordinating their actual implementation.
For example, when the town buys or replaces a dump truck, it must be sure to include accommodations for plow blades to push fallen tree off road and possibly snow. When Leland buys or replaces a backhoe, it should also be fitted with clamps to pick up debris for road clearing. The user department’s narrower view otherwise might overlook broader uses/needs of the town in emergency situations.
An Emergency Operation Plan (dated 2014) is currently under revision to be completed by year’s end and includes coordination within Leland ( Police, Fire/Rescue, & Water/Sewer Departments), with all local utilities, the National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service in Wilmington, North Carolina Emergency Services, and Brunswick County Emergency Services.
Fortunately, Leland has only had occasional low-lying area, flood-prone, and manufactured home evacuations in recent years – no mass evacuation in the last 10 years. Future needs include planning for serious flooding equipment such as swift water rescue resources and training, high clearance vehicles, personal floatation devices, and personal protective equipment for emergency service.