Unsung heroes: FDNY fire and EMS dispatchers honored for their life-saving roles
FDNY dispatcher Christopher Orlando, 58, will be honored as "dispatcher of the year" when the FDNY recognizes the good works of 72 fire and EMS dispatchers on Thursday. (FDNY)
Those calm, collected disembodied voices on the other end of 911 calls are about to be heard — and honored.
The FDNY will be honoring 72 fire and Emergency Medical Service dispatchers during a special ceremony at department headquarters in downtown Brooklyn on Thursday, giving out awards to scores of first responders who are, truly, the first to respond.
“It feels great (to be honored),” Christopher Orlando, known on the radio as dispatcher 207, said. “A lot of dispatchers don’t get recognized, but we get everything first and give out the jobs. They call us unsung heroes, so its good to be recognized.”
Orlando, 58, a member of Brooklyn Operations will receive the FDNY’s “Dispatcher of the Year” award. In December, he helped direct firefighters to a woman trapped with her son inside a burning building on Lewis Ave. in Brooklyn.
With another dispatcher on the phone with the panicked mother, Orlando sent members of Ladder Company 111 to the exact second floor bathroom window she and her child were huddled near.
“When I was a probie, I learned from the best guys,” he explained. “They told me that when you’re calm, they’re calm. When you start panicking, they start panicking. It’s your voice that keeps them calm.”
With Orlando’s guidance, firefighters put a bucket ladder right under the window and pulled the woman and child out safely, authorities said.
“I’m just glad it worked out well,” said Orlando, who has been fielding 911 calls and dispatching responders for the past 16 years. “The adrenaline starts pumping, but we have to give out the best information possible.”
“They got the woman and her child,” he said. “To this day I’ve never met her, but something we did worked and two lives were saved.”
Orlando always wanted to be a firefighter but even though he had a good list number, he was never called to the Fire Academy.
When he finally reached an age where he couldn’t become a firefighter, he joined FDNY dispatch — and sometimes relayed information to his firefighter brother Gregory, who has since retired.
When he receives his award Thursday, Orlando said he’ll be thinking of his dad, who passed a way a few years ago.
“He was so proud of my brother when he joined the FDNY, but I didn’t get to that point. I would have loved to have him see me like this,” he said. “I hope he’s thinking of me and is proud.”
Captain Hugo Sosa will be accepting an Emergency Medical Dispatch Operations award for a June 20, 2017 save after a crane collapsed into a Long Island City building.
Sosa, 51, and his team managed to organize the response to the scene and dispatch resources to seamlessly rescue injured construction workers and get them to the hospital alive.
“When all the calls came over, we knew it was a grave situation,” Sosa recalled. “We immediately started going through all our maps and deciphering the closest units and sending them. Then we began sending units from other boroughs.”
“It’s intense, but we have done a lot of mock training and drills throughout the years to prepare for incidents like this,” he said. “We have organizational maps in our heads that we can implement at a moment’s notice.”
Dispatch, Sosa said, is the “brain stem” of a rescue operation, he said.
“When the call comes in from the outside we decipher it and send the closest ambulance or fire truck — we make sure it gets to the patient,” he said. “Everything stems from that.”
Fire Commissioner Nigro agreed, calling dispatchers “the initial and critical link between New Yorkers who need our help and the brave men and women of the FDNY who respond to more than 1.7 million emergencies each year.”