HANOVER TWP. — It’s a public building that’s closed to the public.
The Luzerne County 911 Center, typically gated and locked tight, opened its doors on Saturday for an open house to celebrate National County Government Month and National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.
Luzerne County 911 CAD/GIS supervisor Andrew Zahorsky was presented a state award and a letter of congratulations from Gov. Tom Corbett by his Northeast Representative Bill Goldsworthy.
Zahorsky was named Information Technologist of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association of Public Safety Communication Officials. He built the GIS mapping system that the dispatchers use.
Zahorsky said it’s good that people that work behind the scene get recognized.
“Nobody congratulates the car maker of a police car that stopped a theft,” he said. “Nobody thanks the hose maker for the fire hose used extinguish a blaze. It’s the behind the scenes things that make the first responders jobs easier.”
He said mapping is pretty new to the 911 service.
“Several years ago, if a person called they didn’t even have a map,” he said. “Now when they call, we know exactly where they’re at the second the call comes in. Especially in rural area of the county.”
About more than 100 people came throughout the day, said Fred Rosencrans, interim director of Luzerne County 911.
Dispatcher James Ostrowski was honored for 24 years of service.
“Everyone asks me how I lasted so long, and it tell them don’t take it home with you,” he said. “People don’t call you to say hello when they’re calling 911. It’s usually at their worst. It’s a baby not breathing, shooting, fires, suicides, accidents. It’s horrible, but it’s the reality of it.”
This center went operational in June of 1996 and processes 450,000 calls each year for 240 EMS, police and fire agencies countywide. The facility’s $6 million budget is primarily funded through phone fees, Rosencrans said, and only $1.7 million is taxpayer funds.
Cherri Swainbank of Plains Township works in the EMS field and brought her children to see how it all works. Her daughter, Myya, 13, an eighth-grader at GAR, said she is considering a career in emergency services when she gets older.
“I’ll add it to my list of things I want to do,” she said.
The Murtha family showed up to see where their family member, Britney, works.
“We wanted the little one (Emma, 5) to see where her aunt (Britney) works,” said Cheryl Murtha. “We’re going to see the helicopter first.”
Other agencies represented were Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency, Luzerne County Sheriff, Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, Hanover Township Fire Company and the MedEvac Air Ambulance from Hazleton-Lehigh Valley Hospital, which landed at the center. Its three-man crew showed off the vehicle.
MedEvac Air Ambulance Pilot Chris Pabody of Wilkes-Barre said the chopper always has a crew of three: himself, a nurse and a medic.
He said this chopper goes on 25 to 35 calls a month. It can cruise at about 120 knots, which is about 140 mph.
“When the call comes in, I’ll take a look at the weather and determine if we can fly,” he said. “The medical staff in the back and I’m in the front. I’m basically a glorified ambulance driver.”