Dispatch crew honored for work during 53-vehicle pileup

The 13 dispatchers were recognized for their performance during a 53-vehile pileup during whiteout conditions caused by blowing snow


By EMS1 Staff

LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. — A team of dispatchers were honored for their work during a 53-vehicle pileup.

Livingston Daily reported that 13 Livingston County dispatchers were named "Team of the Year" by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials after a 53-vehicle pileup was caused by blowing snow on Dec. 8, 2016.

On that day, Deputy Director Joni Harvey said she was with four dispatch supervisors in a training session when a dispatcher walked in the room and said, “We have a multi-vehicle accident — we are guessing up to 30 cars — with a truck on fire, possibly occupied — can someone come and help us on the dispatch floor?”

“When the news footage came out, they released a dash cam from a truck — you see nothing but white, and then the rear end of a semi-truck hits,” Harvey said. “It scares me to death. That is how it started.”

The phone lines began lighting up with calls about the incident, including a woman who began counting the number of vehicles in real-time.

“She got up to 10 and you could hear the anxiety and that is when we knew this was nothing ordinary for an accident on the expressway,” Harvey said.

The team, including dispatcher trainees new to the job, was honored for simultaneously handling a call volume that was nearly twice the amount of a normal day, as well as 14 hours of coordinated response efforts. The team dispatched 196 calls in four-and-a-half hours, which is what they usually do in 12 hours.

Anne Gillhouse, a trainee who had only been on the job for three days, fielded calls for emergencies that were occurring among people in the vehicles post-crash, including one woman who was having a heart attack.

“I’m used to chaos,” Gillhouse said. “I think certain people are cut out for this job. We are just one messed up family here and keep each other calm. In the moment, you dial it in. On that day though, I was like, I don’t even know how to dial in right now. I dialed to my trainer and she kept me calm.”

 

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