by Karen Abeyasekere
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
3/31/2015 - RAF MILDENHALL, England -- "Attention in the station and attention on the net; stand by for structural at building 562, automatic fire alarm via Monaco!"
When an emergency happens on base and 911 or 999 is called, emergency
services have just two minutes to respond and head out on scene.
The first of those two minutes involves the person taking the call
getting all the relevant and vital information, which allows the first
responders to deal with the emergency appropriately. Those people taking
the calls are the dispatchers in the 100th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire
Emergency Services Flight emergency communication center.
Referring to his team of dispatchers as, "the voice in the dark," Paul
Charland-Marlow, 100th CES Fire Emergency Services lead dispatcher from
Beck Row, Suffolk, described how the team of two civilians and two
Airmen are the vital link between the person calling, and the emergency
services arriving on scene.
"We never know what's going to happen at any given time - the (emergency
phone) rings and it could be anything," he said. "We literally have to
think at 100 mph, trying to get all the (important information) out of
the caller so we can get our guys rolling as soon as possible.
"Sometimes we have to pry the information out of folks and other times
we have to stop them from bombarding us with two much," explained
Charland-Marlow. "Each call is as individual as the caller; no two calls
are ever the same, so no two days are either - it's our chance to make a
difference to those who really need it."
As the lead dispatcher, he's headed up the ECC for two years. He's also a
qualified airport firefighter, and his training experience includes
hazardous materials and hazardous chemical response, CPR, medical
triage, first aid, safety officer, incident commander and scene
Overseeing operations, Charland-Marlow acts as a guiding hand to ensure
the dispatchers do what they need to do, and adhere to current
guidelines, adding that the buck stops with him.
"If a 999 call is received off base, it goes to Suffolk Police or
Suffolk Fire (or any other local counties' first responders); if the
caller states they are on RAF Mildenhall and have a medical emergency,
they (emergency services) can call straight through to our 911 system
and we can respond a lot faster than county can."
The ECC is vital to RAF Mildenhall because it receives and answers all
911/999 calls on base. Fire takes precedence on all emergency calls, and
all operators are fully trained with two telecommunications
qualifications, which are professionally recognized throughout emergency
services and national standards. They're also qualified in first aid,
CPR and hazardous materials response. They take the lead response on all
the calls, while medical services and security forces listen in so they
know if they are required to respond.
The control center is located directly facing the taxiway and
flightline, which assists greatly during in-flight emergency calls,
"It (allows us to) plot where the units are, because for in-flight
emergencies we have staging points for our responding vehicles which we
can see from our position here. It gives us an overview as we're far
enough away to see things happening.
"We have direct communication with RAF Lakenheath medics, 100th Security
Forces Squadron and every radio operator on base, as well as pre-set
phone lines to base operations, command post and the air traffic control
tower, allowing information to be up-channeled instantly," he said.
Whether a fire alarm or medical emergency call comes in, it's
immediately all systems go, and emergency tones start ringing. The red
"crash button" is pushed, switching on all lights in the bunk rooms,
corridors and stall areas, which in turn flashes notification strobe
lights around the station, so even those in the gym and wearing
earphones, or those in educational classes, can see an emergency has
Use of the crash button also kills power and fuel to stove tops, grills
and ovens, so if the firefighters have to leave and respond during meal
preparation, items won't cook to burning point. It also opens the stall
doors for those fire trucks required to respond, saving valuable time.
Next, a call is put out around the station alerting the firefighters to the type of emergency and its location.
"Basically, that's letting our guys know there's an automatic fire alarm
that's been detected by the Monaco D21 fire alarm monitoring system,"
explained the dispatch chief. "We then sound the tones a second time,
relaying all information we have because during that time the dispatcher
will have acknowledged the alarm and have the full facility notes in
front of them."
Monaco is a fire management system, and monitors all of RAF Mildenhall's buildings and alerts the ECC to all incidents.
"It cuts down wasted man and truck hours that has a fire alarm
notification panel monitoring all buildings on base," said
Charland-Marlow. "It also holds floor plans for buildings on base, which
provides us the layout and highlights any hazards - known or otherwise.
"This information is vital in protecting both the facility and our
firefighters," he said, adding that weather information is also shown on
the computer system and is then relayed to the first responders, as it
could affect entry control points and where vehicles are staged near the
All this happens in the span of 60 seconds. The fire crew then have an
additional 60 seconds to don their protective bunker gear, get in-place
on the trucks and leave the station.
For a medical emergency, security forces members and medics will know
they are required, after hearing the conversation when the initial call
comes in. Ambulances respond from RAF Lakenheath and 100th SFS sends an
escort vehicle to meet them, then lead them on scene via the fastest and
safest route possible.
Charland-Marlow explained the importance of training for the
dispatchers. They undergo at least one to three months of continuous
training which includes studying a 200-page dispatcher guide, local
standard procedures, plus two computer-based telecommunications courses.
That's in addition to requiring a medical and CPR certification.
"As the ECC, we're the driving force behind many changes in basing the
new ambulance and dedicated medical crew who are now permanently
in-place at the fire department," he said.
Charland-Marlow's work and effort of putting plans into practice have not gone unnoticed.
"Paul is one of our best, proven by the fact he was recently recognized
as the 100th Mission Support Group Civilian of the Quarter," said Chief
Master Sgt. Christopher Mohr, 100th CES Fire Department fire chief. "He
brings a unique perspective as his background is not in fire protection,
and he didn't work with or for the military prior to working at RAF
Mildenhall, so he brings no preconceived ideas or how things should or
shouldn't be done.
"As my lead dispatcher, Paul is able to look at people and processes
with an open mind, and is able to teach Airmen and civilians alike,
without them realizing he's teaching and leading them!" the fire chief
said. "As far as managing processes, he's willing to ask the simple
question, 'Why?' then translate how we do things to accomplish that in
the easiest way possible. I'm very fortunate to have Paul on my team."