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    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

    The Express-Times

    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
    summer months.

    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
    emergency medics.

    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
    work out.

    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.

    Christopher Post
    United States Antarctic Program
    McMurdo Station Antarctica
    Lehigh County Emergency Management
    Allentown, PA
    E-Mail :
    Amateur Radio: N3SIG / ZL5CP

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