State honors local dispatcher with award

May 26, 2003|By MARLO BARNHART

In his three years as a dispatcher at Washington County Fire and Rescue Communications, William C. King has learned how quickly a routine shift can turn into a life-and-death situation.

It was just such a call last November - a 14-year-old boy choking on food - that earned King the state Emergency Medical Dispatcher of the year award last Thursday from the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems in Baltimore.

The ceremony marked the end of Emergency Medical Services week in Maryland, which bore the theme, "EMS - When It Matters Most."


King, 28, of Hagerstown, was accompanied by Chief Bardona Woods and Deputy Chief Roy Lescalleet of the Fire and Rescue Communications/911 Center, located in the basement at 33 W. Washington St.

"The call came in on the evening of Nov. 20 and the boy's mom was frantic," King said. "The hardest part of the call was getting her to calm down."

Finally she was able to tell King that her teenage son was choking on food and was unable to breathe.

After getting the necessary information from her on the address, telephone number and the specific nature of the problem, the dispatching duties were handed over to King's fellow dispatcher that night, Bob Myerly.

Once King was relieved of that part of the call, he was able to concentrate on guiding the mother in helping her son until medical personnel arrived.

King told the boy's mother exactly how to perform abdominal thrusts on her son and on the fifth try, the food was dislodged, he said.

Boonsboro Ambulance personnel arrived on the scene and transported the boy to Washington County Hospital, where he was admitted for observation. He was later released and made a full recovery.

"The boy and his family presented me with the award I received in January from the Washington County Commissioners," King said. "They also gave me a pen with the boy's name on it as a keepsake."

While King was the one recognized, first by the county and last week statewide, he was quick to note that dispatching 911 calls truly is a team effort.

"That night, Bob Myerly took over the dispatching duties so I could instruct the mother," King said, noting that the mother also was part of the team, since she was actually doing the procedures.

Both King and Myerly were hired as dispatchers in April 2000. Both got interested in the field through their experiences with Explorer Post 321 of the Hagerstown Fire Department when they were 14 and 15 years old, respectively.

King also volunteers at First Hose Co. in Hagerstown, where he is captain.

Medical emergencies are the most frequent calls handled by 911 dispatchers. There also are many wrecks and fires to deal with, which often overlap, King said.

"I have instructed CPR over the telephone and once, I helped deliver a baby ... also over the telephone," King said.

While it has been nice being recognized for his efforts last November, King said he wants everyone to understand that there is a lot going on that people don't see and that teamwork is what really spells the difference between life and death at the 911 Center.

Also receiving state awards from Region II, which includes Washington and Frederick counties, was Terry Shook of Frederick, Md., EMS Provider of the Year; and George Delaplaine Jr., also of Frederick, for his 29 years on the state EMS board and advisory council.

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