Metro Cities Fire Authority believed to have only explorer post of its kind in the nation


Mike Bates has been a dispatcher at Metro Cities Fire Authority (Metro Net) in Anaheim for 13 years.

His son, Mathew, 20, has been a Public Safety Communications Explorer for more than a year.

Wait, a what?

Most people have heard of police explorers. Almost every police agency has such a program for teens, which allows them to get a taste of police work by working such events as DUI checkpoints and traffic control.

But a dispatch explorer?

Metro Net is believed to be the first fire emergency dispatch service in the country to establish an explorer program for 14- to 21-year-olds interested in a possible career as a fire, police or emergency medical services (EMS) dispatcher. The explorers also coordinate with Anaheim PD Communications.

Mike Bates, who as a teenager was an explorer with Huntington Beach Search and Rescue, was the driving force in establishing, in June 2014, Public Safety Communications Explorer Post 302 at Metro Net.

Bates serves as senior advisor of the explorer post, whose number (302) is the same as the suite number for Metro Net, which is located on the third floor of Anaheim West Tower — home to Anaheim Fire & Rescue headquarters.

“It’s a good place to get a taste of what this job entails,” Mike Bates said. “And communications is not just about being in an office. We are learning about opportunities that occur outside at emergency scenes.”

Bates’ son is one of three explorers in the pilot program at Metro Net, along with Dylan Blaauw and Steven Ricotta. Five more are going through the application process.

Often working alongside Anaheim PD explorers, Matthew Bates has worked such events as the OC Marathon, handling communications duties at an emergency operations staging area in Costa Mesa.

On April 18, Matthew was sent to a vegetation fire that broke out near the Brea Dam in Fullerton — just after he had put in a few hours at the Anaheim PD, where he serves as a police explorer. Matthew assisted a Metro Net “Incident Dispatcher” at the Brea Dam Fire command post.

“It was fun,” Matthew said of being able to rub shoulders with fire brass at the command post in the parking lot of St. Jude Hospital.

About 100 firefighters from the Fullerton Fire Department, Orange County Fire Authority and Anaheim Fire & Rescue were able to limit the blaze to 12 acres, with help from Anaheim PD and Fullerton Fire helicopters.

“I enjoy (being a dispatcher explorer),” Matthew said. “It’s challenging.”

Matthew, who lives with his family in Irvine, graduated from Creekside High School in Irvine. This fall, he will take EMT and fire technology classes at Santa Ana College.

Potential members of Public Safety Communications Explorer Post 302 must meet certain requirements. The commitment is roughly 10 hours a week of service, with membership renewed annually.

In the fall, Explorer Post 302 will offer a tactical dispatcher class in October. Tactical dispatchers respond with SWAT units.

To learn more about Public Safety Communications Explorer Post 302 at Metro Net, which provides 911 Fire and EMS dispatch services to more than 1.2 million people in Anaheim, Brea, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Orange, click here.