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September 23, 2002 at 2:58 pm #151willKeymaster
I wanted to pass this along, this came from one of the local papers.
Rhonda, one of my friends and co-workers from Lehigh County will be working
down here in the Fire Dept as a Dispatcher.
Emergency dispatcher answers call for cold job
Sunday, September 22, 2002
By NICK FALSONE
Rhonda Ward always liked the cold weather.
The 38-year-old Washington Township woman has plenty of it coming her way
starting at the end of this month.
Ward, a dispatcher at Lehigh County's 911 Communications Center, will begin
a journey on Sept. 26 to Antarctica for a more than four-month stint as a
fire dispatcher at an American science research base.
It will be summer during her time there, meaning she'll have to deal with 24
hours of daylight, but she'll still be able to bask in temperatures that can
dip as low as 50 degrees below zero.
But Ward, a mother of two who recently celebrated her 19th wedding
anniversary, says she's ready for the conditions. She also says she's been
dreaming of the trip for close to a year.
“I was obsessed with it,” Ward says. “I thought about it night and day.”
The idea came from a friend, Christopher Post. Post went down to the base
last year. He contacted Ward and told her about the experience. “He planted
the seed in my head,” Ward says.
Coincidentally, Post also works for the county, Stacy Wescoe, the county's
public affairs manager says.
The county was happy to grant the leave of absences for Post and Ward so
they could take the trips, Wescoe says. “It's an adventure,” she says. “How
many people get to say they went to Antarctica?
Besides, in Ward's case, the trip is a good learning experience that could
also benefit the county in the long run, says Laurie Bailey, the county's
communications center coordinator.
“Her experiences in Antarctica will hone the skills she already possesses,
and will be an asset to the county's 911 program upon her return,” Bailey
Ward will be doing the same type of work at the science research base, which
is run by the National Science Foundation. The base, called McMurdo Station,
grows to the size of a small town of about 1,000 people in Antarctica's
The base functions like a small town as well. There's a general store, a
gym, a post office, doctors offices and anything else needed. “It's almost
like an army compound. Everything is close by,” Ward says.
Just as in any small town, emergencies happen. That's where Ward steps in.
She'll be fielding emergency calls and dispatching firefighters and
Whether it's in Lehigh County or Antarctica, the job is a true passion for
Ward. She says it's often a thankless task, but the excitement is always
there. “It's never a dull moment,” she says.
The pursuit of excitement and adventure is what sparked Ward to apply for
the trip to Antarctica. She says she used to be leery of trying new
adventures. “I was the type of person who was afraid of my own shadow,” she
About eight years ago, a friend convinced her to join the now-defunct
Slatington Ambulance Corps. The volunteer position changed her attitude.
Now, she's always trying new adventures.
She says she went skydiving just before she decided to apply for the
Antarctica trip. “I didn't think I'd ever top that,” she says.
Ward then received word from Post and decided to go for the trip. She
applied last August and did an interview this June. Following the interview,
she was offered the position.
“I thought my knees were going to give out on me (when I was offered the
position),” Ward says. “I was just so overwhelmed.”
After being offered the position, she started preparing. Blood tests and
other medical examinations became routine. Packing for the trip has been a
fiasco. “I have packed and unpacked and repacked so many times,” she says.
But she is now ready. Her flight will take off Sept. 26 from Lehigh Valley
International Airport. She'll have a layover in Los Angeles and then fly to
New Zealand. After a few days in New Zealand, she'll take an Air Force plane
to the base in Antarctica.
Her biggest fear isn't what's going to happen to her during the trip, it's
what's going to happen to her family while she's gone. “All this war talk
makes you think,” she says.
But she'll have plenty of opportunities to keep in touch. The base is
equipped with e-mail and phones. The time difference will require some
creative planning for the phone calls, but she says she's confident it will
When the trip is over, the family plans to fly to New Zealand and meet Ward
for a week-long vacation. “We'll probably never get another chance to do
that,” Ward says.
But until then, Ward says she's going to try to do everything she can to
make the experience as rewarding as possible. “Anything that's offered down
there, I want to do it,” she says.
She says she won't let the cold weather stop her either.
United States Antarctic Program
McMurdo Station Antarctica
Lehigh County Emergency Management
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