Barbara Ireland Makes Things Work

Audrey Fraizer

Audrey Fraizer


Barbara Ireland chatted at a table off to the side of the exhibit hall during NAVIGATOR. A pen of four puppies brought in from a rescue association close to where she sat probably prompted her to discuss the family’s three dogs, one of which was put down for health reasons a week earlier.

The elder dog, Brees, had been at odds with the dog named Magnolia. They simply refused to get along. The third dog, Lola, was the negotiator. The peacemaker. Ireland said it was a dominance issue between Brees and Magnolia and despite their displeasure of each other’s company, neither of the dogs was taken to new homes. They navigated gates and schedules keeping them apart. “Friends were amazed at how we managed them,” Ireland said. “But what else could we do? We made it work for all of us.”

Well, that’s the way Ireland does things. She makes things work. She wins awards crediting her ingenuity and personal and professional integrity. At NAVIGATOR 2023, Eric Fayad, IAEDAssociate Director of Instructor Services, presented Ireland with the Dave Massengale Memorial Instructor of the Year Award. Standing beside Fayad was Carole Massengale, the wife of Dave Massengale, the award’s first recipient and the award’s namesake who died in 2022.

“Barbara displays the epitome of what we look for in our instructors,” Fayad said.

Carole Massengale said Ireland is every bit as passionate about teaching as Dave Massengale, who trained up to 35,000 EMDs and EFDs during his many years of teaching.

Ireland was warm and friendly when accepting the award. She called the moment poignant. After all, her vista from the stage illuminated the people she truly admires—the ones who make it work every day in emergency communication centers around the world. “I’m proud to be part of this profession and organization,” she said. “I stand in awe of you.”

Ireland has a passion for helping people in danger. She makes things work.

In 2017, Ireland retired as Deputy Chief of Communications for New Orleans (Louisiana, USA) Emergency Medical Services (NOEMS) following 32 years and three months in New Orleans EMS, starting as a paramedic in 1985. Twelve of those 32 years were spent in emergency communications.

In 2005, Ireland, then a NOEMS field supervisor, was asked to take over communications in the aftermath of Katrina. Hurricane Katrina had devastated communications infrastructure across the Gulf Coast, incapacitating telephone service, police and fire dispatch centers, and emergency radio systems. Telephone lines and cell towers went down, crushing the ability of agencies to affect a coordinated response. Thousands of 911 calls went unanswered.

As Deputy Chief, Ireland was on the ground floor of rebuilding emergency communications. Before Katrina, 911 operators worked in separate sites across the city, depending on whether they were employed by the police, fire department, or EMS. After Katrina, the operators began working together, and in April 2011 they moved into a new 25,000-square-foot facility designed to withstand hurricane-force winds and operate independently for seven days.1

Ireland relished the challenge. She loved the job. “Until my retirement in 2017, it was the happiest I’d ever been.”2 She admits that she loves retirement. An upside, she said, was turning off her phone at night. No longer was it her duty to answer midnight calls announcing another crisis requiring her advice or presence in the communication center. “I didn’t think it was possible to be this de-stressed.”

Don’t let Ireland fool you. Retirement didn’t stop her; it barely made her pause. She continued teaching Advanced Cardiac Life Support at Tulane Medical School and the EMD certification course. The COVID-19 quarantine shut down classroom teaching and shifted certification courses to a remote system. The change required the ability to reach students—engage and motivate students—from the confines of her home office. Ireland missed meeting students directly but adapted and flourished in the medium. She made it work.

“I taught 46 EMD courses last year,” Ireland said over the noise of the exhibit hall and the exuberance of attendees taking turns holding the four rescue pups. She is proud of her teaching. “Learning that I liked to teach was a big thing,” she said. “It makes me feel good to help people starting out in the profession.”

 Ireland got up from the table and left the exhibit hall. Ireland had said she was shy, and it was the uniform and purpose that gave her confidence. The award proves she’s more than what she might make of herself.


1. Krupa M. “New Orleans officials christen state-of-the-art 911 center in Mid-City.” The Times-Picayune. 2011; April 1. https://www.nola.com/news/politics/new-orleans-officials-christen-state-of-the-art-911-center-in-mid-city/article_888cf006-6f91-5b67-a46c-763faef50455.html (accessed April 24, 2023).

2. “Barbara Ireland, New Orleans EMS (NEMSM-0016).” National EMS Museum. YouTube. 2020; Nov. 17. www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTVrc_J5-Ds (accessed April 24, 2023).