One provides emergency assistance, the other travel information. Confuse the two through inattentive dialing and you’re likely to get more immediate attention than you expected.
It was Thursday when most people were eating lunch. An e-mail writer questioned whether a road was listed as closed on the 511 Traveler Services phone system. To verify the system was working correctly, I dialed 9 for an outside line and three numbers that I knew would take me to voice prompts on the traveler information system.
Instead of a recorded message, a woman dispatcher greeted me calmly.
“9-1-1. What is your emergency?
Caught off guard, I paused momentarily and then apologized for my error.
“There is no emergency, ma’am,” I responded. “I was trying to reach 5-1-1 and dialed the wrong number. I’m sorry.”
She politely assured me that such mistakes are common, then wished me a good day.”
But before I replaced the handset on the telephone, three fellow ITD employees burst into my cubicle. One carried an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and another packed a first aid bag. They were prepared to administer cardio pulmonary resuscitation, revive a stilled heart, or dress a bleeding wound. Whatever medical assistance I needed, they were ready to administer it.
Moments later I got a call from Security. Down the hall, an emergency tone signaled behind the locked door of vacationing Cheryl Rost, manager of Risk Management and Employee Safety.
Misdialing one digit set into motion a life-saving scramble that led to my door. Humbled, appreciative and reassured by the sudden response of my well-trained, highly capable colleagues, I declined treatment. I did, however, lie down on the floor and offer myself as a practice dummy since they were kind enough to respond so quickly.
Then it occurred to me that I really didn’t want a burly ex-Marine, who serves as ITD’s rail safety coordinator and part-time ski patrol member, rendering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation unless I was on my deathbed.
Who knew that such a careless mistake dialing the Traveler Services system would produce such drastic results?
Apparently only a select few ITD employees at Headquarters. And now, I am among that elite, somewhat embarrassed group.
ITD established an internal alert system to respond to emergencies at the Headquarters building in 2001. Rost arranged for the first AED purchase at a cost of about $3,200; she kept the portable equipment, which is slightly larger than a lunch bag, in her office on the first floor.
Three other AEDs were purchased by 2004; they were assigned to each floor of the main building and one was located in the Division of Motor Vehicles wing. The devices that stimulate a weak or non-responsive heart also were added to the Headquarters Annex, Supply Building and the Bridge Section facility.
District 3 purchased a unit and District 2 is considering one, Rost said.
Anyone who has attended first aid classes and received training in using an AED is qualified to serve on the voluntary response team.
An emergency 9-1-1 or 9-9-1-1 (for outside assistance) activates alert signals on phones of all participating responders. They include John Collins, Design; Vicky Jewell-Guerra, Environmental; Reggie Phipps, Commercial Vehicle Services; Louie Albright, Highways (Emergency Coordinator); Cathy Ford, Highways – Roadside Manager; Barbara Waite, Right-of-Way; Joe Peagler, Highways-Traffic; and Rost.
Employees participate on a volunteer basis.
Calls also go to the Security desk in the ITD lobby. The on-duty Security officer contacts the emergency caller to ensure that a trained employee has responded.
“Minutes count,” Rost explains. “The difference between life and death could come down to our ability to respond quickly with the appropriate assistance.”
During the brief history at Headquarters, responders have found no life-threatening incidents. Twice ITD employees placed 9-1-1 calls to request emergency assistance for a family member who was ill or threatened at home. A couple of calls were placed for employees who suddenly became ill.
Most often, however, the response-triggering calls are accidental.
“We don’t want people to be reluctant to call if they believe there is an emergency,” Rost explains. “It is helpful for us to have the experience. We’re very fortunate to have received many practice drills, but we’ve had no cardiac emergencies.”
She encourages other employees to apply for the first aid, CPR and AED training. The one-day courses are offered at least quarterly. Anyone who would like to take the training and become a qualified responder should complete a training nomination form and submit it to Human Resource Development.