New Pocahontas County 911/Homeland Security Emergency Services Director
Recently Allegheny Mountain Radio caught up with Mike O’Brien, the newly appointed 911 Center and Emergency Management Director.
Mike, who lives near Green Bank, always wanted to be involved in the Fire Service.
“I started my career in 2001 as a Junior Fireman with the BFD Fire and Rescue then went on to my chosen profession” said Mike. You know it’s every little boy’s dream to be a fireman, and I was doing that. And then I realized that those jobs were few and far between in Pocahontas County so I went to work at Snowshoe Mountain Resort as an electrician. In 2010 I had the opportunity to live my dream , and I applied and tested and got hired as a Firefighter/Paramedic at Shavers Fork Fire Rescue. I was an EMT at the time and they hired me with the understanding that I would go to school to be a Paramedic.”
Shortly afterwards, Mike suffered a life and career changing accident.
“On July 26th, 2011 my career path got changed” Mike said. “I had a motorcycle accident and broke my neck. Shavers Fork Fire and Rescue created me a position as Administrative Assistant to the Chief and EMS Manager. I worked that until January 2015 and I went to work at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital as the chief of EMS. And I had the opportunity to come here in June and applied here and lo and behold here I am.”
At Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, Mike oversaw and trained the EMS crews and the other Paramedics who worked in the Emergency Room. Mike noted with pride that Pocahontas Memorial Hospital is one of the first hospitals in the state to allow the Paramedics to work in the ER.
In a way, Mike’s accident led him to his current position.
“When I got hurt in 2011, my plans changed” said Mike. If I hadn’t got hurt I would have still been in that Firefighter/Paramedic at Snowshoe /Shaver’s Fork Fire and Rescue. I had to look at other opportunities and other ways to stay in my career path with the injuries that I had because I can’t be physical anymore. I can’t be that guy that goes running into burning buildings.”
Despite being brand new at the job, Mike seems to have a good grasp of his duties.
“Part of my job is 911 Director, take care of the Dispatchers, oversee the scheduling, oversee the radio communications in the dispatch center” says Mike. “The other part of my job is the Homeland Security Emergency Management. It’s actually now –they just merged – it’s West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is the new official title for that. That gets the resources we need in the event of a large scale emergency.”
The third part of Mike’s job may be the most challenging.
“The biggest part of my job is in mapping and addressing, trying to get everything squared away” Mike said. “There’s a lot of issues with people with their 911 addresses, trying to get that fixed, trying to get the road signs up on these unmanned County roads. That’s something big on our radar, so we make sure when someone calls 911 and we give the responding agency the responding address, they can know exactly how to get to where you’re calling from. So, kind of right now the job is in three parts.”
Mike asks people to post their addresses clearly so responders can find you when you may need it the most.
Mike sees one of the biggest challenges in his position is fixing the poor radio communications for emergency responders, especially in the northern part of the County. He recognized this will take a lot of money, time, effort and coordination with the National Radio Observatory to solve, but he is a determined young man.
Overcoming a life altering disability from an accident must have been a long and painful effort filled with just the determination and grit that Mike will now apply to making Pocahontas County a safer place to live.
He invites citizens to share ideas, problems and concerns with him at his direct telephone number, 304-799-3985. Mike can be reached Monday through Friday, 8am to 4pm.