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Bonneville County emergency dispatch office evacuated

Bonneville County emergency dispatch office evacuated

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - Police and firefighters put their lives on the line every day to make sure the public is safe, but what about the dispatchers, who send the emergency crews out?

Several Bonneville County/Idaho Falls dispatchers had to go to the hospital after a dangerous situation at the call center on Monday.

"911 services, police services, first responders are critical in any community," said Idaho Falls Police Capt. Royce Clements.

So critical, in fact, that people would have no idea that something had gone wrong at the dispatch center, unless they took a look at the hastily fixed windows, which were shattered Monday evening to let fresh air inside.

Everyone was evacuated after several employees inhaled some chemical fumes. The building has been under renovation for some time, and Clements said a construction worker left either paint or a chemical solvent sitting out.

Clements said the fumes got into the building's air ducts, causing employees to get sick.

"(Employees were experiencing) difficulty breathing, eye and throat irritation, cough," Clements said.

Three people were taken to the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. They were all treated and released.

Everyone else was allowed back inside the dispatch center Tuesday afternoon.

The incident raises the question: What happens when our emergency workers are dealing with their own emergency?

Both Idaho Falls and Bonneville County have trailers that serve as mobile command centers.

"This is equipped with all the same frequencies that they would have within our dispatch center, and there's a phone system," Clements said.

Police brought some desktop computers into the command centers, and dispatch was up and running pretty quickly.

Calls were also transferred to Jefferson County dispatchers during the downtime.

"They did what they always do. They stepped up, they took care of business and they provided a great service," Clements said.

Once the construction is done in the current dispatch center, construction will start on a backup dispatch center on North Holmes in Idaho Falls.

Bonneville County dispatchers answer anywhere from 500 to 1,000 calls every day.

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