On Thursday, August 19th at approximately 4:30 p.m., a major storm event began affecting multiple areas within Pinal County. This included rain and thunderstorms, reported micro-bursts, and flooding.
The significance of the storm can be represented in the numbers of incoming 9-1-1 and administrative phone calls the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Public Safety Communications Division answered within the duration of this storm event; which lasted almost 13 hours.
Historically speaking, PCSO Communications receives in the month of August, approximately 6,000 9-1-1 calls for service. During this twelve and a half hour event alone, PCSO received 1,028 incoming calls for service.
Although the increase in call volume was significant, absolutely nothing was compromised to the citizens and visitors in Pinal County in the way of 9-1-1 response or customer service.
Early on in this event, it became clear Region Adam, specifically in and around San Tan Valley, was most affected as electric poles were downed, streets were flooding, railroad arms were broken, accidents and lightning strikes were reported.
The PCSO Communications Division supervisors and staff on shift determined they should best manage heavy radio traffic by giving Region Adam a dedicated channel and dispatcher, even as regions Baker, Charlie and David remained on separate channels with a dedicated dispatcher.
Over the course of this storm event, the Communications supervisors on duty, Angelique Graham and Evelyn Noriega coordinated breaks and multiple shift changes for their staff, as well as effectively partnered in communication with other agencies, field supervisors, abiding special requests and updated Command Staff, the Communications Manager, and the PIO.
It is for these reasons, as well as all of those unnamed tasks performed, the following Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Public Safety Communications Division personnel have been nominated for a Teamwork Citation Commendation during the Monsoon Storm on August 18th and 19th, 2011:
Communications Manager Jennifer Foster stated, “We train early, we train intensely and we train often in preparation for just the instances of circumstance as was the storm for which these employees were recognized. My employees are truly the unsung heroes in our first responding chain of events. They more than deserve this award and I am incredibly proud to work with them.”
Sheriff Paul Babeu stated, “The severe weather event that struck Pinal County in late August put our entire agency to the test. Without effective communication from staff fielding 9-1-1 calls, my deputies would not have the information needed to effectively respond in time of crisis. The communication staff rose to numerous challenges throughout the night and early morning hours, ensuring the safety of PCSO staff and citizens of Pinal County was never compromised.”