Updated 04/08/2009 06:57 AM
Broome County 911 dispatchers respond to crisis
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- "We have two possible victims. Assailant is on the first floor. No description, no description of weapon."
William Stout describes the atmosphere at the Broome County Emergency Dispatch Center last Friday in two words: "Organized chaos."
"I'm going back to get the SWAT truck. Don't, don't do anything foolish back there.'
The 18-year veteran dispatcher was one of the first to receive a call from inside the ACA.
"He couldn't speak English and he was talking very low. The phone disconnected, it was a cell phone," Stout said.
And that was just the beginning.
"My partner picked up the next call and it was the woman at the desk. And I heard him say 'Who's doing the shooting?' and that's what really got the ball rolling for me," Stout said.
"There's a male down on the ground in front of the reception desk, and a female with an abdominal wound on the first floor under one of the desks. Most of the subjects, so far in the basement. About thirty of them. Unable to barricadse that door. There's no furniture."
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Dispatchers kept the victims calm while they waited for help to arrive. They gathered as much information as they could and relayed it to police.
"Suspect is described as an oriental male wearing a green jacket, black glasses, in his twenties.">
"We helped thirty-some people get out of that building, so it is satisfying that we did help," Stout said.
But being a hero comes with a price.
"It's been probably in recent years that they've started to realize the dispatchers are affected just like the field responders are," said Michael Ballard, Communications Supervisor at the Broome County 911 Emergency Dispatch Center.
Supervisors will watch the dispatchers for signs of trauma.
"Crying at the console, maybe some of them may not be quite as attentive to what's going on at any given time. They may have short fuses with callers," Ballard explained.
Ballard says when the chaos hit, his team came together like a family.
"10-4. If you can communicate with anyone from there, have them lock their doors.You have enough help down there to maintain that?">
"I'm very proud of what the crew did that day. They did a job that was just undescribable." Ballard said. "They didn't waver. They stood firm and did their job and did it very professionally."
The dispatchers say they rely on one other to relieve stress and deal with the trauma of the tragedy.