Dispatcher's Quick-Thinking Saves Hiker

September 29, 2020 by Kate Nadolski

Dispatcher's Quick-Thinking Saves Hiker

When a person goes missing in one of the United States’ largest mountain ranges, telecommunicators and first responders know they need to act quickly.

For Don Quinlivan, dispatcher for Greene County Emergency Services in New York, he instantly knew when he took a call regarding a missing hiker that time was of the essence.

According to Quinlivan, the missing hiker was in the Catskill Park, which is a part of the Catskill National Forest. With numerous trail heads in the forest, hikers unfamiliar with the area can easily be lost. In this situation, the missing hiker became separated from the individuals he was with. The sun was setting, and officials were nervous about what could happen if the hiker wasn’t found before nightfall.

“The caller had no idea where the hiker was,” Quinlivan said. “And, at that time, we were not yet live on the computer aided dispatch system that we had purchased to upgrade our dispatching capabilities for the community. However, I knew we needed to think differently to get this person found and brought to safety.”

To expedite the search and rescue mission, Quinlivan decided to utilize the test mode of the computer aided dispatch (CAD) system and utilize its mapping capabilities. From there, he was able to view the individual trails in the forest where the missing hiker was last seen.

“Almost immediately, I was able to ask the caller questions that helped us narrow down exactly where the individual was thanks to the mapping capabilities in the system,” Quinlivan said. “We located the caller using GIS coordinates and immediately forwarded that information to first responders on the scene.”

The missing hiker was safely located and reunited with his group.

“We’re a rural community and we don’t have a lot of resources,” 911 systems administrator for Greene County Emergency Services Neil Kellegher said. “The amount of resources Donald saved by thinking outside the box and using the system in the test environment was incredible. This call for service resulted in a positive outcome for all and we couldn’t have been happier.”

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