9-1-1 Center awards top team members

Find out why it’s important that we take this opportunity to recognize these diligent public safety workers as they toil, locked away in their Lents Neighborhood headquarters …

The 2009 Bureau of Emergency Communications awards banquet provides an upbeat, social evening for 9-1-1 Center team members.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Every hour of every day, Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) team members are on the job, at a bunker-like building in the Lents neighborhood, just east of the I-205 freeway.

These employees of the “9-1-1 Call Center” take incoming emergency calls; they dispatch police, fire, and medical responders all over the City of Portland.

But, these serious-minded people (at least, the ones who aren’t at that time on duty) get together each year to celebrate their successes and honor outstanding coworkers.

“Thanks for coming to our Sixteenth Annual Employee Awards Banquet,” welcomed BOEC’s director, Lisa Turley, on April 13 at the Gray Gables Estate in Milwaukie. “I think everyone who works here has an attitude of public service; they’re really interested in helping the public. All of us have a ‘call to serve’ the public. It’s a challenging job. I firmly believe none us would stick around, if we didn’t believe in the value of the work we do.”

Turley added that, at this event, the 140 people who work behind the scenes at BOEC – in fact, who are typically never seen on the job – are publicly recognized for the service they perform.

Rebekah Conklin, BOEC’s Telecommunicator of the Year, receives her award from Lisa Turley, Director of Bureau of Emergency Communications.

Telecommunicator of the Year
This year, her peers chose seven-year BOEC veteran Rebekah Conklin, an emergency communications lead operator, as the Telecommunicator of the Year.

“I take calls and dispatch,” Conklin said of her work. “I also am a trainer, helping new team members learn the various positions in BOEC.”

Conklin said she originally considered a career in law enforcement. “I heard that the BOEC was tiring, and thought that might be a nice ‘foot in the door’. Once I started, I realized I didn’t want to be a police officer, I wanted to be a dispatcher.”

Learning how to run the emergency communications equipment is challenging, but Conklin said the most important thing that she helps new team members to learn is how to psychologically adjust to the work.

“The most important thing is to ‘let the calls go’ when you go home. I tell them to be professional and caring with the callers – but, at the end of the day, don’t let the calls affect your personal life.”

Conklin said she was flattered to be selected for the honor. “It’s really nice to earn the respect of your peers and to be recognized.”

Looking back, Conklin said, she still think BOEC was a great career choice for her. “If you’re okay with shiftwork; if you like working with a team – and the people we work with are outstanding – this is a great career, with good job security and benefits.”

Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz is flanked by BOEC Supervisor of the Year Murrell Morley and Outstanding Team Member of the year, Britt Kramer.

A self-funded event
Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who oversees BOEC, noted that the event is totally self-funded. “Everyone pays for their own ticket; sponsors donate the prizes.”

Fritz said that she’s learned a great deal since BOEC was assigned to her portfolio of agencies “The people here are fantastic. They take care of people on the worst day of their lives, and make sure that they’re getting the services they need. Their work involves matters of life and death; they are willing to do a very difficult job day in and day out.”

With Commissioner Fritz were two additional award-winners, the 2009 Supervisor of the Year, Murrell Morley, and Outstanding Team Member of the year, Britt Kramer.

“I’m dedicated to my employees,” said Morley, a 10-year veteran of BOEC. “I just go to work and do my job as well as I can every day.”

And Kramer said that, although she’s been with the agency for only about a year, she was pleased that her work in timekeeping and payroll has been noticed and appreciated.

Representing Portland Fire & Rescue, bureau spokesman Lt. Allen Oswalt, chief of operations Mark Schmidt, and Chief John Klum are ready to celebrate the work done by the team members at the 9-1-1 Call Center.

Find out more
If you think you’d be a good emergency telecommunicator, find out more about what’s required by visiting their page on the City of Portland website: CLICK HERE.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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