9-1-1 personnel honored at annual banquet

Find out why these dedicated professionals – who help people on the ‘worst day of their lives’ – take the time to celebrate during ‘National Telecommunicator Week’ every April …

City of Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications employees, retirees, and supporters, meet and mingle at the 2013 “Employee Recognition Banquet”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
You might remember the faces of the firefighters, paramedics, or police officers, who raced to your emergency. But, you’ll probably never know the highly-trained people behind the scenes who helped you, when you called 9-1-1.

Working in a darkened room, in a fortress-like secured building in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood near I-205, the folks who work for the City of Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) take calls from citizens, and then dispatch emergency providers, on a 24/7 basis.

Since 1991, the second week in April has been nationally declared “National Public Safety Telecommunications Week”; and it’s dedicated to public safety telecommunicators who provide 9-1-1 emergency assistance. In 2003, Mayor Vera Katz issued a proclamation acknowledging this week in the City of Portland as well.

Pausing for a photo while preparing for their banquet are BOEC Operations Supervisor Kris DeVore, Emergency Communications Supervisor Mickie Reed, and Senior Dispatcher Holly Campbell.

To celebrate their own, BOEC throws an awards banquet every year – and East Portland News was invited to meet several of their honorees on April 11.  This year the celebration was held at Madison’s Grill and Ballroom in Southeast Portland.

“Our Employee Recognition Banquet gives us an opportunity to present awards in several categories,” explained the event’s organizer, BOEC Operations Supervisor Kris DeVore, as she joined in decorated the ballroom.

“In addition to the awards, we also acknowledge people been with BOEC for 5, 10, 15, 20, and 30 years. We come together to have dinner and celebrate the success of the year, with honor those we work with.”

This is important to her, DeVore said, “Because it shows our folks that we realize the importance of their day-to-day contributions to public safety. Also, that what they do is critical to the safety of the public an area that we serve.”

Before the crowd tucked into a sumptuous-looking dinner, including mixed greens, artesan rolls, braised shortribs, chicken sausage, vegetarian pasta with Pomodoro sauce, and fruit tarts for dessert, several of the honorees spoke about their work at BOEC.

Honors to BOEC Senior Dispatcher Vanessa Carr, “Telecommunicator of the Year”.

Vanessa Carr ~ Telecommunicator of the Year

Her 5½ year career at BOEC started “almost by accident”, Vanessa Carr began.

“I had been looking for work for awhile; and I wanted something steady,” Carr explained. “I came across this job. It had good benefits, and seemed like something that I could do, so I applied.”

What followed was a long application and training process, Carr admitted.

“I have to say, I didn’t know what I was getting into; but, from the first day onward, I really enjoyed it – in fact, I really loved it. It fulfills most of the really important things I want in a job – especially getting to help people in need.”

About being named Telecommunicator of the Year, Carr remarked, “It is been a delightful surprise, I really love it.”

Here’s BOEC Senior Dispatch Coaching and Training Officer Kim Hunt, the 2013 “Coach of the Year”.

Kim Hunt ~ Coach of the Year

It takes a great deal of training and coaching for 9-1-1 telecommunicators to “get up to speed”, observed Senior Coach Kim Hunt, who has been with the Bureau for some 19 years.

“It takes from 18 months to about two years to become completely certified in all areas,” Hunt said.

“When I started, my trainer was very important to me,” Hunt explained. “And, I like to work with new trainees who are breaking in – to take them ‘under my wing’, to show them the ropes – and, so far it’s worked out pretty good.  I have a lot of trainees [whom I have coached] who have certified over the last 19 years.”

Although some might consider it a stressful profession, Hunt commented, “I really enjoy my job. And, I think that the people that I work with are wonderful – and do a really good job for the people who live and work in Multnomah County. I’m glad to be part of that – getting people the help that they need, when they need it.”

-5 Meet BOEC CAD Coordinator Norah Beech, “Outstanding Team Member of the Year”.

Norah Beech ~ Outstanding Team Member of the Year

Although she doesn’t “take calls”, the work that Norah Beech does – keeping the Bureau’s Computer Aided Dispatch system up and running – is vital to BOEC’s operations.

“I had an older brother who is a police officer, and he encouraged me to get into [public safety] dispatch,” said Beech, who is in her 7th year with the bureau. “I did that nearly 17 years ago, in another state. When I moved to Oregon, I came here.”

So, unlike newcomers to the profession, “I knew exactly what I was getting into – it is a great agency.

“And, this is a good place for me to build my career,” Beech added. “I enjoyed being a dispatcher in the past, but now I have the opportunity to work in a new field, and still support that with what I am passionate about — which is public safety.”

Congratulations to former BOEC Emergency Communications Supervisor Wendy Lotman, named “Supervisor of the Year”.

Wendy Lotman ~ Supervisor of the Year

Because she left BOEC after 15½ years a month and a half ago for another job, former Emergency Communications Supervisor Wendy Lotman remarked that she was very surprised to given this award.

“I didn’t know that I was nominated, until they told me that I won,” Lotman said. “It was a surprise; but I am very grateful!”

She did enjoy her career with BOEC, Lotman added. “It was never boring. I worked with really smart and very resourceful people. I always enjoyed being able to interact with the employees there, hear their stories, help them out, and provide training.  I worked in a lot of different areas while I was there.”

Lotman is now an assistant manager at TriMet.

A self-funded event
Their event is, and will continue to take place, DeVore noted.

“That’s because all of the money for this comes from the donations we receive, and from people that we solicit.  Our folks have fundraisers throughout the year – like making crafts, sweatshirt sales, and raffles of donated prizes.”

Find more information about the Bureau of Emergency Communications at their website: CLICK HERE to see it.

East Portland News congratulates this year’s honorees, and thanks all of the men and women at BOEC for their daily valuable contributions to our public safety.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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