9-1-1 Operators party in style at Lakeside

People who deal with life-and-death situations daily “let their hair down” at this festive party. But, how much did this lavish event cost taxpayers?

Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications’ Lisa St. Helen, Supervisor of the Year and Nancy Wilson, Telecommunicator of the Year, take a moment to tell us why they love their jobs. David F. Ashton photo

By David F. Ashton

Some of the people most important to your personal safety are never seen. They labor, 24-hours-a-day in a bunker-like building in Lents. These are the men and women the “telecommunicators” of Portland’s Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC).

Better known as 9-1-1 operators and dispatchers, they, and their counterparts across the nation, are honored for their behind-closed-doors work during the second week in April.

Locally, BOEC folks celebrate with a catered dinner party. The bash, at Lakeside Gardens, deep in eastern SE Portland, includes a gourmet buffet dinner, games and prizes and awards.

Center stage, BOEC’s Todd DeWeese, a supervisor and Public Information Officer, is the host of the event’s version of the popular TV game show, “DEAL or NO DEAL”. David F. Ashton photo

By the way, this lavish soir?©e does not cost taxpayers a dime. Todd DeWeese, a supervisor and Public Information Officer told us. We all pay our own way to come to this banquet. This is our opportunity to recognize our employees for their great work throughout the year.‚

DeWeese continued, telling us that BOEC ‚often just known as “9-1-1”  ‚Äì is staffed by people who demonstrate poise under pressure; who provide aid and compassion in times of distress, and make critical decisions within seconds. ‚People don’t think about these seemingly nameless, faceless individuals until they experience an actual emergency themselves. These professionals make the difference between life and death in many instances.

Mayor Tom Potter, who typically speaks at the event, ditched it. But, April 11 was a trying day for the mayor, having stood behind his police chief early in the day – then later, naming Foxworth’s temporary replacement to that post.

The winners are:

Lisa St. Helen, Supervisor of the Year – “We’re chosen for our ability to support the staff working the [9-1-1 Center] floor every day: This is a fantastic job. As a career, I get to help and support our community at large. As a supervisor, I get to support the wonderful people who answer 9-1-1 calls and dispatch emergency services across the city. It is remarkably rewarding.

Nancy Wilson, Telecommunicator of the Year: I feel proud and honored by this aware because I was nominated for it by my peers at BOEC.. My dad, he’s sitting next to me at my table, was a policeman. He recommended that I try out working at the 9-1-1 Center I liked it then. Now, almost 30 years later, I still love what I do. It is such an honor to be given this award tonight!

So, next time you have to wait for a 9-1-1 Operator, be nice to them when he or she comes on the line. They may have just saved your loved one’s life.

2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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