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Clarion hosts 26th Annual Telecommunications Banquet

By Staff | Apr 12, 2019

Lynn Costello, right, presents Laura Pope with the Outstanding Employee Award for Jefferson County’s Emergency Communications Center. Toni Milbourne

SHEPHERDSTOWN – The 26th annual gathering honoring telecommunication specialists and dispatchers in the tri-state area was once again held at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center.

The event recognized first-line emergency responders for their community service and provided an atmosphere for those whose job is often behind-the-scenes to enjoy fellowship and relaxation.

Thirty-one-year fire service veteran Daniel Neal was the guest speaker for the evening. Neal currently serves as a battalion chief with Loudoun County (Virginia) Fire and Rescue. In his 22 years there, he has also served as a firefighter, paramedic, company officer and EMS supervisor.

According to Neal, communication is one of the most integral pieces of any emergency response. He began his speech by sharing his first interaction with a 911 dispatcher when he was 12 years old.

One day as a child in rural Loudoun County, Neal was at his bus stop on a foggy morning on Route 287 near Lovettsville. He was listening to the cars he couldn’t see because of the fog, but could hear how they were zipping by on Route 287. His bus, on the other hand, was coming off a side road.

“I could hear a car coming, but the bus pulled out and a large pickup came out of the fog into the front of the bus,” Neal said, mentioning he knew someone had to call 911, so he ran back to his house to make the call.

“I heard ‘911, what’s your emergency?’ in a very calm, methodical voice. ‘My bus crashed!'” I blurted out,” Neal said. “Despite my worry, fire and rescue showed up, and 35 years later I still remember the impression that dispatcher, John, had on me.”

According to Neal, dispatchers are a key part of the emergency responder team and, without them, those on scene could not do their jobs effectively.

He ended his speech, quoting Henrico County (Virginia) dispatcher Lynette Jeter, whose essay “Just a Dispatcher” went viral after she posted it on Facebook to help others understand the difficulty of her job.

“To the thousands of callers that I speak to that think that I’m ‘just a Dispatcher’ remember that I may not be the first to arrive at your house but I’m the first person that you may speak to on possibly one of the worst days of your life,” Neal read.

Following Neal’s speech, the local companies honored their top employees. Receiving top honors for Loudoun County Fire and Rescue’s Emergency Communications were three selected as Telecommunicators of the Year, Lauren Parker, Casey Charles and Christopher Piper. Loudoun County’s Sheriff’s Office recognized Rifat Chowdhury as Outstanding New Telecommunicator; Jeff Kish as Evening Shift Telecommunicator of the Year and Lachersha Bennett as Midnight Shift Telecommunicator of the Year.

Recipients of the 911 Emergency Communications recognition for Montgomery County, Maryland were team members Cameron Ivory, Tevi Grimm, Kelly Grasty Kyle Wogatske, Dan Ganoung, Rickeya Johnson, Charles St. Paul, Antonio Lemus, Natalie VanGarder, John Milkintas, Stephen Geraci and Ana Tejada.

Frederick County, Maryland honored Sallie Fallo as Telecommunicator of the Year, Amanda Miss as Communications Training Officer of the Year and the team-work of Brain Easterday, Karlea Brown, James Worley, Kevin Willis, Chad Brown, Amy Nearhoof, Mary Rice, Eric Stackhouse, Jennifer Butler, Lisa Lanam, Samantha Ruby, Thomas Ward, Morgan Zigler, Renae Coolidge, Aaron May and Phillip Vecera.

Washington County, Maryland Telecommunicator of the Year was Beth Carpegna, while Kelly Fisher was honored as Supervisor of the Year.

Berkeley County’s Central Dispatch honored Hannah Bayer as the Telecommunicator of the Year, while Jefferson County’s Emergency Communications Department chose Laura Pope as the outstanding ECC employee. Pope received a standing ovation, as she has retired from her 27-year career of serving Jefferson County.