What happens in the middle of the night when you wake up to your house on fire or smell the smoke? Do you have a plan – a family exit plan with a meeting place? Have you practiced these plans?

Here is an example of what could happen.

At 3:11, a.m. the family dog, Rufus, is in the bedroom whining and barking. Finally mom wakes up to take him out, again.

But as she is slipping on her slippers in her drowsy state, she realizes…

“Hurry get up! I smell smoke!” she yells.

There is some stumbling around, there are blankets being thrown, mom running to find the youngest child, dad is running toward the source of smoke. The oldest kid joins mom and sibling in the living room. The oldest child grabs Rufus. Mom is looking for one of the three cell phones in the house, while yelling for her husband. Mom picks up the phone only to realize she has forgotten how to dial phone numbers.

“Why is it so complicated?”

Then she remembers and makes that call.

At 3:14 a.m., a call is received into dispatch.

Dispatcher: “911 where is your emergency?”

Caller: “My house is on fire!”

Dispatcher: “What is your address?”

Caller: “1234 Firelane Rd.”

A second dispatcher is notifying the fire department at this time. As the home is located within a certain fire department area, that fire department is notified first. Immediately followed by a second fire department notified for mutual aid, or assistance.

At 3:14 a.m.: “Texas County 911 to fire department, report of a structure fire at 1234 Firelane Road.”

The fire department is toned on the radio and sent a text on their personal cell phones. The dispatcher talking to the caller is typing all information into a CAD system so that all on-duty dispatchers can see and send resources as needed. 

Dispatcher: “What is your phone number?”

Caller: “Get here now! My house is on fire!”

Dispatcher: “Ma’am, I need some information; my partner is already getting the fire department on the way.”

Caller: “Just hurry!”

Dispatcher: “What is your name and phone number?” Caller provides her name, Josie, and phone number.

Caller: “We just moved here last week, and we woke up to all kinds of smoke.”

Dispatcher: “Is everyone out of the house?”

Caller: “No, we are trying to get the fire out!”

Dispatch: “Josie I need you and everyone to get out of the house. How many people are in there with you?”

Caller: “My husband and two kids.”

Dispatcher: “Josie get out of the house and tell me when you all are out.”

Caller: “The kids and I are out, but my husband is still up there fighting the fire!”

Dispatcher: “Tell him to get out.”

Caller: “He will not listen.”

Dispatcher: “Josie, I need you and your children to get a safe distance away from the fire. Are the kids or yourself, injured any?”

Caller: “We are back by the barn and everyone is OK.”

At this time, since the husband may still be in the house, the second dispatcher is sending an ambulance for standby.

Dispatcher: “Where is your husband?”

Caller: “Last I saw him he was going upstairs.”

2nd Dispatcher: “Texas County 911 to fire departments; male subject possibly still in the house, upstairs.”

Dispatcher: “Are there only two levels to your house?”

Caller: “Yes.”

Dispatcher: “Do you see any flames or just smoke?

Caller: “Smoke and flames on the back side.”

Dispatcher: “What color of the flames?”

Caller: “I don’t know – the color of fire!”

Dispatcher: “Make sure you all stay away. Can you tell me if there are any hazards in the area such as propane tanks or oxygen tanks?

Caller: “We have a large propane tank we just filled it up. It is on the other side of the house.”

Second Dispatcher: “Texas County 911 to fire departments, caller is reporting flames on the back of the house and a full propane tank is on the side of the house.”

Dispatcher: “Is your husband out of the house yet?”

Caller: “No, I am heading to the front porch to see if he is in there.”

Dispatcher: “No, Josie, stay there with the kids in the same place.”

Caller: “I hear the fire trucks.”

Dispatcher: “OK. I want you to stay put and stay on the phone with me until they arrive there with you.”

“Fire department to 911 show us on scene, flames showing on the back of the house.”

Caller: “They are here.”

Fire Departments stayed on the scene many hours to fight this fire. They were quick to make sure the husband was out of the house. The husband was safe and after being checked out by EMS, was able to join his family. EMS stayed on scene to ensure the safety of the family and fire fighters. While responders were on scene and helping, dispatch was keeping track of all the times for each department. Dispatch also contacted Intercounty Electric and Red Cross. Intercounty was very prompt in sending a crew out to help shut off the electric to the house to stop further safety hazards. The Red Cross sent out a representative to help the family for a place to stay and other essentials.

Rufus is a hero!

Keep in mind that all fire departments in Texas County are all volunteer and respond from their homes, families or work to help fight the fires. After helping this family most of them had to report to work or other obligations. More often than not, the only payment they receive are the thank-yous from the public. If you are interested in helping your local fire departments, reach out to them.

If you need information on which fire department you belong to, call the 911 office any time at 417-967-5309.

The Texas County Emergency Services office in Houston is funded by a 3/8-cent countywide sales tax approved by voters in 2013. Assistant director Terra Culley can be reached by phone at 417-967-5309 or by email at terraculley911@hotmail.com.

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