Saturday, April 21, 2012

9/11! In the Commonwealth! Man Those "Workstations!"

Pennsylvania State Police Respond To Flight 93 Crash, Originally Published in our Nov/Dec 2001 issue, Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content, Author: John M. Eller,

When hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Somerset County on September 11, 2001 the Police Communications Officers and State Police Officers from Troop A were handling the incoming telephone calls, along with the Somerset 9-1-1 Center.

Shanksville is in a rural area and falls under the jurisdiction of Troop A, Pennsylvania State Police, under the command of Captain Frank H. Monaco. The communications room in the Somerset Station consists of only one computer workstation with an additional incoming telephone line in the communications room. The Greensburg Station, in adjacent Westmoreland County, was taking many of the incoming 9-1-1 calls concerning the plane crash. Greensburg is comprised of three workstations, consisting of computers and telephone transmission lines. Police Communications Officer (PCO) Kimberly Mahokey along with Troopers John Martin and Donald Hughes were working in the communications room on that ill-fated day. All incoming calls must go through one of the three workstations. Corporal William Link was working alone in the communications room at the Somerset Station.

The Westmoreland 9-1-1 Center received a call from a passenger on Flight 93 who was asking for help, indicating the plane was being hijacked. Mahokey said that at 9:58 AM the Greensburg Station was notified that there was a plane with a possible bomb on it somewhere in the area. Shortly thereafter, the station was informed by the 9-1-1 Center that a plane had crashed somewhere in Somerset County.

Supervisory personnel throughout the command were notified of the emergency. Troop A Commander, Frank Monaco was approximately 200 miles away in Harrisburg, the state capitol, at the time of the crash. He was notified and responded directly to the command post, which was located at the crash site in Somerset County.

PCO Christine Hetz was called in to assist Corporal Link at the Somerset Station. All available state police personnel were dispatched to the crash site. Off duty personnel were called in for the emergency. PCO Mahokey said that she and the two troopers were continually offered relief during the period of the crises by other personnel, who were in the building or arriving at the station, as the result of the crash.

Captain Monaco has five stations under his command. PCO Mahokey said there are approximately 30 state police officers assigned to Greensburg alone. She said all personnel responded in a timely, professional and efficient manner. The state police personnel were assigned to 12-hour shifts during the investigation stage.

PCO Mahokey said that everyone did all they could to help in this tragedy and things went as smoothly as they could given the circumstances.

Currently the Pennsylvania State Police have 81 dispatch stations in the 67 counties in Pennsylvania. Approximately 173 State Troopers are currently required to augment the Police Communications Officers at the 81 dispatch stations in order to cover all shifts. Within the next two years the Pennsylvania State Police will be implementing a consolidated dispatch system throughout the Commonwealth, condensing the 81 dispatch stations to five, thereby reassigning the troopers back to law enforcement duties, and providing state-of-the-art communications throughout the Commonwealth.

John M. Eller has been Police Chief in Brookhaven, Pennsylvania, since 1981. In addition to being a columnist for 9-1-1 Magazine, he is a certified police instructor, consultant, criminal justice instructor, and weekly newspaper columnist.

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