From Interim DHW Director Dean Cameron: StateComm staff help coordinate response to last week’s hangar collapse

February 9, 2024
Interim DHW Director Dean Cameron

During my short time as interim director at DHW, I’ve been impressed with the dedication, passion, and professionalism displayed by hundreds of the agency’s staff. 

From caring for foster children to helping coordinate emergency responses, DHW’s work touches the lives of many Idahoans, and often in very meaningful ways.

Tragedy unfolded in Boise last Wednesday, Jan. 31, when an under-construction airport hangar collapsed, killing three men and critically injuring five others. The Idaho State EMS Communications Center (StateComm) was a critical part of the response that followed.

StateComm is a 24/7 emergency communications center in Meridian, and it’s a component of the Bureau of EMS and Preparedness in DHW’s Division of Public Health. 

Emergency Communications Officers Ashley Collins and Rebecca Brockman have been partners on the same shift at StateComm since November 2022, and during this time have been directly involved in multiple, highly critical incidents, including the hangar collapse. 

At the request of first responders at the incident, Collins and Brockman initiated a call with regional hospitals to determine how many patients each facility could accept, stayed in close contact with first responders on the scene, and initiated contact with search and rescue teams. 

People who were either involved in the call with hospitals or at the scene commended Collins and Brockman for their professional and calm demeanor on the radio and phone throughout the incident. 

In briefing me about the incident response, StateComm managers stressed the importance of teamwork when dealing with what they call “low frequency, high intensity situations.” Managers told me that Collins and Brockman have proved time and again they are a team that can handle the toughest calls at any moment and highlighted a half-dozen incidents during which they made a vital difference for Idahoans.

Here are a couple more:

Highway 55 school bus crash

Collins and Brockman were working Aug. 4 last summer when a school bus crashed on Highway 55 and caused 30 students between the ages of 13 and 18 to be sent to regional hospitals. 

Due to poor radio communications and no cell phone service, StateComm became the most important link to informing hospitals when ambulances were on the way and to ensure the hospitals were able to treat the needs of specific patients. 

It was a large response involving 10 EMS units, and StateComm was a difference maker in its ability to coordinate communications for such a complex scene. 

U.S. 95 propane truck crash

In February 2023 a propane truck crashed on U.S. Highway 95 and was venting propane. Collins and Brockman coordinated deployment of Hazmat teams from Boise and Caldwell, and the highway was closed for three days while teams vented the balance of the propane.

DHW is here to serve you. Have a great weekend.

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