Journal Staff


By Journal Staff

The agency coordinating multi-agency response to a call reporting three people trapped in a corn syrup tank and overcome by fumes was honored for its actions with the APCO Australasia 2014 Communications Award.

The award presented to the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) in Victoria, in southeast Australia, recognized the “direct and positive impact on the resolution of an incident through effective communications,” and “improved or encouraged multi-agency communications and collaboration.”

This incident in Cloverlea—a region in rural Victoria—involved a number of ESTA staff representing three Emergency Service Organizations (ESOs) across two different locations. It received national news coverage and was exemplary of the professional communications staff making a positive contribution to the community they serve. The chief operations officer presented each staff member with a letter of commendation.

According to the incident report, the calltaker processed the call using ProQA, which simultaneously presented the information to ambulance, fire, and police dispatchers at the Ballaret State Emergency Communication Center (SECC) to “ensure speedy allocation of emergency resources.”

The actual sequence:

  • ProQA assigned the event type as “Inaccessible Incident/Entrapment: Confined Space with Multiple Victims” and this information was presented to the ESTA dispatcher. The event was immediately dispatched to the nearest available ambulance.
  • The event was “aliased” (i.e., a “copy” of the event with an updated event type relevant to the other agency) to a police dispatcher with the event type of “Confined Space Rescue.” The event was immediately dispatched to the nearest available police unit.
  • At the same time, the event was “aliased” to a fire dispatcher with the event type of “Confined Space Rescue.” The event was immediately dispatched to the nearest available fire unit.
Any updates to the event that were entered into CAD by the calltaker were immediately visible to all three dispatchers. Accordingly, responding units received almost real-time updates as they progressed to the scene. Meanwhile, the ProQA software had generated a set of Pre-Arrival Instructions (PAIs) based upon answers provided by the caller.

On arrival, police discovered three patients; two were unconscious.

In attempting to rescue and assist the patients, two police officers and two paramedics were overcome with fumes. The patient count had doubled in a matter of minutes and the event escalated into a major incident.

A total of nine patients were transported to the hospital, and three were judged critical and flown by ambulance helicopter to Melbourne hospitals.

Significant incident communications received by emergency personnel were recorded in CAD by the dispatcher responsible for that agency. These updates were instantly available to all other communications personnel, ensuring all involved remained informed and up-to-date with the latest reports from the field.

This expedited the broadcast of critical information such as not to enter the scene without breathing apparatus and where the incident staging points were.