911 dispatchers recognized for difficult job
For the 25th year, dispatchers from the tri-state area joined together at a banquet honoring their own. This year’s event was held at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Shepherdstown on Saturday evening.
The annual gathering provides a way to praise those who serve in such a key function of the emergency service process, and allows these dispatchers to share laughter and stories with their peers as they take a well-deserved break from the words “911: What’s the exact location of your emergency?”
Matthew Tobia, a 30-year student of the fire service, currently serves as the assistant chief of Support Services and Volunteer Administration with the Loudoun County, Virginia, Fire and Rescue. Tobia was the guest speaker for the evening.
“Dispatchers are our first first responders,” Tobia said. “It is the single most difficult job in emergency service.”
The event’s program covers reflected Tobia’s statement. The programs were adorned with the words: “Between the Red Line and the thin Blue Line lies the thinnest Gold line. The Gold Line represents those who are rarely seen but mostly heard. The Clam Voice in the Dark Night. Dispatchers. The golden glue that holds it all together.”
The men and women who came together to recognize their peers serve as that voice on the line during emergency calls as those who are hurt, sick, worried and scared wait for emergency assistance to arrive.
Tobia said that, while dispatchers may not physically rescue those endangered on-scene, they provide critical information and serve as a link to emergency responders and those in need of service. They’re also a link between emergency responders and the outside world. He used the Sept. 11 tragedy as an example, saying dispatchers that day took thousands of 911 calls and remained calm and did their jobs.
“Men and women they knew were losing their lives,” he said. “But those dispatchers never gave up or failed to fulfill their mission.”
Tobia offered words of encouragement to the dispatchers attending the awards dinner, saying that often those on the end of the telephone line have no closure.
“You spend a precious few moments on the phone not knowing if you make a difference,” he said. “You work in a fishbowl trying to do your jobs.”
Too often, Tobia stressed, dispatchers are left out of the awards, the counseling and the entire process, other than providing their services.
“But for the grace of God and a 911 dispatcher on the end of the line, we are nothing,” Tobia said. He encouraged the group to watch out for one another and provide encouragement and aid to help cope with a job that’s often mentally draining.
Following Tobia’s remarks, those rising to the tops of their respective companies were honored.
Receiving top recognition for Jefferson County was ECC Outstanding Employee of the Year Lori Brown, who couldn’t attend the banquet due the death of her mother Saturday morning. Berkeley County’s recipients included Telecommunicator of the Year Jordan Flowers, Supervisor of the Year Crystal Milik and part-time Telecommunicator of the Year Amanda Garland.
Receiving awards for the Loudoun County Fire and Rescue were Telecommunicator of the Year Toni Fowler, Supervisor of the Year R. Blair Forrester and Communications Division Achievement Award recipients Casey Jo Charles and Jerri DaCosta. Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office awards went to Day Shift Telecommunicator of the Year Ron Kauffman, Evening Shift Telecommunicator of the Year Jeff Kish and Midnight Shift Telecommunicator of the Year Miranda Freeman.
Maryland recipients included those from Montgomery County 911 Emergency Communications who gave a team award to Dejia Braxton, Rickeya Johnson, Samantha Weigman, Darren Kishbaugh, Nicholas Smyre, Ana Tejada, Stephen Geraci and Lynn Moroney.
Frederick County, Maryland, Emergency Communications honored Telecommunicator of the Year Phil Petry and Communications Training Officer of the Year Terri Wallace, and gave a Team Award to Jen Stahley, Jeff Lowman, Rick Clark, Cheryl Drake, Heather Duvall, Jeremy Heflin, Stephanie Peters, Britney Lowman, Eric Stackhouse, Melissa Martinez, Emily Murphy, Jessica Hinkle, Aaron May and Casandra Townsend.
Rounding out the awards was the Washington County, Maryland, Emergency Communications who honored the Telecommunicator of the Year Brittany Canterbury. Washington County also took the opportunity to present a surprise Lifetime Award to 35-year staffer Bardana Woods, who began her service as a part-time dispatcher in September 1983.