He’s been called the master of fire dispatching for the Eastside due to his knack for anticipating firefighter needs while under the pressures of a quick-burning blaze.
Dave Stuby’s 33 years in emergency dispatching may have something to do with it. But it was also his dedication.
Early on in his dispatching career, a new truck in Woodinville caught fire. There was little knowledge on the area’s geography back then, Stuby said. And Stuby, being new to dispatching, took four minutes to try to get an address so aid could locate the scene.
By the time firefighters arrived, the truck had burned.
“One of the things I realized is that I have to understand more,” Stuby said. “It’s part of the reason why I worked harder at addressing and understanding fire.”
Having entered into retirement last month, there are still more lessons to learn, traveling to do and family to visit. Stuby is also the first to be enrolled in NORCOM’s Hall of Fame.
A lifelong career
Before the Canadian native, 62, took his first 911 call, he had a gig dispatching buses for Greyhound. Similar to emergency dispatching, bus dispatching came with its own set of surprises.
However, the surprises couldn’t compare to those that came with 911 calls.
For the first 23 and a half years, Stuby worked with the city of Bellevue and Bellevue Police Department, as part of Eastside Communications. In July 2009, he was “fired and rehired” after multiple cities came forward to consolidate their emergency service communications.
They created the North East King County Regional Public Safety Communications Agency (NORCOM). Today NORCOM does dispatching for many agencies including fire agencies of Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Snoqualmie Pass and Bellevue as well as Kirkland, Bellevue and Mercer Island police departments and others.
As part of NORCOM, Stuby did both police and fire dispatching. When a fire happened, he could anticipate what would likely need to happen. Sometimes he would work on getting Puget Sound Energy out to the scene, ahead of firefighters.
“I was thinking outside the box all the time for [responders], trying to make it simpler as time progressed,” Stuby said.
After a while, he learned different tricks to use to get better information from someone. He learned to look at the history of a residence, so that officers could have relevant information on other incidents that happened in the home, giving them a better idea of what they might be facing.
And while Stuby’s face might not be recognizable by the 1,600 responders he dispatched for, they’ve come to recognize him by his calm voice.
When Stuby first started as a dispatcher, fire notifications were sent out to fire stations verbally. Stuby’s voice would ring out in fire departments on the Eastside. When he got on the radio, everyone knew who it was.
“I tried to keep my voice very calm and even keeled — no matter the situation,” he said.
In his retirement from NORCOM, Stuby said he’ll miss the people and camaraderie. When a siren passes he’ll wonder what kind of call it is, and the incident challenges.
Most of all, he’ll miss the “good feeling” he got when at the end of the day all the emergency responders went home safe.