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County's new 911 communications chief facing a busy workload

June 17, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Bardona Woods said she tells her husband, Jim, that she'll have free time once she gets a handle on her busy workload.

But as she completes one project, others keep coming, and Woods joked that the cycle starts all over again.

As Washington County's new 911 communications chief, Woods' responsibilities aren't likely to get any lighter.

The 42-year-old Washington County native oversees the coordination of the county's 911/Fire and Rescue Communications Center and supervises 22 full- and part-time emergency dispatchers.

She's also a part-time paramedic for Sharpsburg Area Emergency Services, a volunteer for the Boonsboro Emergency Service and Ambulance Co., an emergency medical dispatch instructor and a lifetime member of Community Rescue Service.

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"It can get pretty hectic," Woods said. "You can go from no activity to - within a few minutes - you can be getting nonstop calls."

Without the help of her husband, a deputy with the Washington County Sheriff's Department, Woods said finding a way to balance her career and duties at home would be difficult.

"He's very, very supportive," she said. "He helps me immensely. If it weren't for him, I probably wouldn't be able to do these things."

She said her husband makes sure chores get taken care of at their home in Hagerstown when she's at work.

"He's just got a very great temperament," Woods said.

Woods has four children: Angela, 22, Rob, 18, Rich, 17, and Julie Holsinger, 11.

The Washington County Commissioners appointed Woods to the chief position last week.

County officials say Woods' long history in the emergency services field helped make her the top candidate.

"The choice is a good and logical one given Woods' employment background, level of professionalism and experience within the Washington County Emergency Services system," Joe Kroboth, director of the department of emergency services, said in a written statement.

She most recently worked as the assistant chief of the center since 2001. Before that, she was the emergency medical dispatch administrator.

Woods, who grew up in Boonsboro and graduated from Boonsboro High School in 1977, became a member of Community Rescue Service in 1978.

She received her emergency medical technician certification in 1979.

She became a full-time emergency communications technician in 1984 after working part time in the same position. The county's 911 services began that same year.

Woods became a paramedic in 1997.

She said she became interested in the emergency services field after spending time on the job with her father, who was an aid for CRS.

She said a career in the field is stressful, and memories of tragic calls often weigh on her mind.

In particular, she said frantic calls involving serious incidents with children tend to become etched in her memory the most.

"You always remember those calls - when the mother or father calls up and something serious has happened to a child," she said.

Under those circumstances, she said she reminds herself that she and others on the job are doing what they can to save lives.

"It can get to you at times," Woods said. "I try to remember that we are here and we are helping. If something happens, it's usually beyond our control. Our hearts are in the right place, and we're trying very hard."

While dispatchers must learn how to juggle multiple tasks at once, including answering calls, talking to those in distress, typing information and sending out emergency crews, Woods said they're often left wondering how their efforts have worked out since they don't go to the scene of a call themselves.

Dispatchers usually look for the story in the newspaper or search the obituaries for names, she said.

"The dispatchers are not seen," she said. "We work behind the scenes. A lot of times we don't find out the final outcome. We spend the next day checking obituaries to find out if what we did was effective."

But not all calls result in unhappy situations. Woods said hearing that someone was resuscitated or rescued and being acknowledged by citizens and fire and rescue companies raises the morale of dispatchers.

"That's really good when they hear the positive," she said.

Despite Woods' many duties and 25 years in the field, she said there's one thing she's yet to accomplish.

"I'm still waiting to deliver a baby."

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