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Drowning difficult for first responders

Aug. 13, 2007

"Fire department, what's the address in your emergency?" A Phoenix Fire Department dispatcher answers a call promptly. It's who the public calls when they need help.

"Is the baby breathing?" It's a calm voice, "she needs to be taking breaths every few seconds," in a terrifying situation.

"Whenever somebody calls and says their baby isn't breathing, it's just a terrible feeling and you hope that's not what the problem is," Dispatcher Kelly Hobel says. advertisement

She's been working the phones for the department for 19 years. She says sometimes, the problem, is a possible child drowning.

"Drowning calls are some of the most panicked calls we have," Fire Communications Supervisor Shirley Dunlap says.

The fire department took this call several months back.

"What's going on?" A Phoenix fire dispatcher says.

"My daughter drowned in the bathtub,"

The dispatcher asks the father, "Is she out?"

"I have no, you gotta hurry, please!"

It's a familiar story that comes in every 2 to 3 days according to the Phoenix Fire Department, that is diffcult for the dispatchers.

"Especially some of my dispatchers have younger children, I think it's very easy for them to personalize that, a lot of times after one of my dispatchers takes a drowning call I ask them if they'd like to go out and take a break," Dunlap says.

They are considered the first responders by their colleagues in the department, 15 of them, each covering for the other.

"In a bad situation, the best thing to know is that we're doing everything we can and that the people on the scene are doing everything they can to make it have a better outcome," Hobel says.

A chance at survival.

"Some calls just do stay with you, you just don't forget them," Dunlap says.
Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
By Syleste Rodriguez
Copyright 2007 Arizona Republic

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