Hamilton County 9-1-1 telecommunicators have returned from Florida after a weeklong deployment request for mutual aid assistance from that state. This was the first out of state deployment for Tennessee TERT.
On Monday, Sept. 18, the group of six telecommunicators made the 12-hour drive to Collier County to provide assistance for other telecommunicators handling the response to the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Once the team arrived, they toured the facility and met with working staff, then went to their makeshift quarters for some rest prior to receiving assignments for the next morning. The team divided into two 12-hour shifts and received a crash course in the computer and phone systems utilized by the host agency. They handled in-coming phone calls and assisted in dispatching responders, working alongside resident staff as well as other TERT members from Florida and Georgia.
High call volumes during a disaster can quickly overwhelm a call center. Coupled with the on-going response and recovery efforts, employees are also dealing with emergencies that may have affected their own homes and families. The TERT response allows these employees to take a break, so they may check on their own families, and assess damage to their homes. Many had not had an opportunity to go home since the storm first hit. Employees utilized cots and makeshift sleeping quarters at the operations center, with very little down time.
Officials said, "The host agency personnel were extremely gracious and thankful for the extra assistance. Team members handled up to 52% of the daily call load while there. They made lasting friendships and quickly bonded together as a cohesive and professional team."
Upon their return Sunday, team members received a much-needed break before returning to work Wednesday for a debriefing by TEMA (Tennessee Emergency Management Agency).