9-1-1 ‘Telecommunicators’ honored

Take a moment to read this: Learn about some of the many men and women who have dedicated themselves to always help people on the ‘worst day of their lives’ …

Employees and guests from Portland’s Bureau of Emergency Communications enjoy a sumptuous-looking dinner as part of their annual awards event.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Few every actually see the sometimes heroic – but always important – work they do at Portland’s Bureau of Emergency Communications Center (BOEC), located in outer East Portland off SE Powell Boulevard, where the Lents and Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhoods intersect.

But every hour of every day, about 112 “telecommunicators” are on duty, locked away in their high-security facility. During a shift, these unique folks rotate duties between answering the phones when someone calls “9-1-1”, and dispatching police and dispatching fire and rescue services.

We traveled to North Portland’s Widmer Gasthaus, the site BOEC’s 20th Annual Awards Banquet on April 11, to meet this year’s honorees.

Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Bureau of Emergency Communications Supervisor – and awards banquet organizer, Wendy Lotman – show off the awards about to be presented at the 2010 “BOEC Telecommunicator of the Year” Awards program.

“We put a lot of time and effort into organizing this event to honor the important work done by our employees,” explained this year’s banquet organizer, Supervisor Wendy Lotman, a 15 year BOEC employee.

“All of our staff members serve the people of Portland every day, and go mostly unrecognized for all they do,” Lotman told us. “So, we hold this annual event to provide a good night of fun, and also to honor special people within the Bureau.”

BOEC is in Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz’s portfolio, and for the third year, she attended the awards banquet. “The more I learn about BOEC, the more impressed I am with the diligence and dedication of their staff.”

As a career hospital emergency department nurse, Fritz has seen people in difficult circumstances. “Our 9-1-1 communicators deal with people facing some horrendous situations. 9-1-1 operators look after you on the ‘worst day of your life’; they do it with compassion, courage and efficiency.”

Portland’s BOEC Telecommunicator of the Year

BOEC Senior Dispatcher David Brewer is named “Telecommunicator of the Year”.

Chosen as an individual who is represents the Bureau’s dedication to public safety, BOEC Senior Dispatcher David Brewer was awarded “2010 Telecommunicator of the Year”.

“I was looking for a job at the time, and was interested in public safety,” Brewer told us. “While I didn’t originally consider this as a career, I’ve found that it’s both very demanding and interesting.”

His greatest challenges and enjoyment come from taking calls from folks who dial 9-1-1, Brewer said. “Dealing with the public can be the wild card in our job. We’re there for people when they need help the most. Fortunately, I have an aptitude for the job. It’s a pleasure to give back to the citizens of the City of Portland through my work.”

David Brewer enjoys a light moment at the Awards Banquet before dinner.

Brewer said he also enjoys interacting with his co-workers. “We make it a point to keep a sense of humor and grace among all the activity that swirls around us. I’m also a coach; training and teaching is a lot of fun.”

Asked what he’d most like the people of east Portland to know about the work they do, Brewer thought for a moment.

“When you call 9-1-1, and we ask you questions, it’s for a good reason: It’s part of the dispatch process. The faster and more completely you answer our questions, the sooner [emergency service providers] will be there to help you. We’re not questioning your honesty or integrity.”

Portland’s BOEC Supervisor of the Year

Meet Jacquie Carson, BOEC’s “2010 Supervisor of the Year”.

The Bureau selected Supervisor Jacqueline “Jacquie” Carson as the “2010 Emergency Communication Supervisor of the Year”.

“I worked with a fantastic group of people; they make my job pretty easy,” Carson said modestly about being honored this year. “I don’t know what to say about being awarded for the work that I do. I come to work; I do the best I can every day. The people with whom I work have a good sense of humor, yet can handle other peoples’ worst nightmares on a daily basis.”

What impresses her most about working at BOEC, Carson added, is “the depth of character of the people I work with.  I love coming to work, and sharing in the successes of those who work with me.”

Portland’s BOEC Coach of the Year

BOEC selects AmyLynn Colvin, as “2010 Coach of the Year”.

Even though new recruits undergo a rigorous year-long training program before they take calls, Senior Dispatcher AmyLynn Colvin, the Bureau’s “Coach of the Year”, said that their training continues.

“After our new workers go through classroom training and book learning,” Colvin told us, “coaches like me continue their training. My particular area of expertise, for example, is police dispatch training. I pass on what I’ve learned, after doing this for about 15 years now.”

The best part, Colvin added is, “I find it personally very rewarding to watch my trainees succeed.”

Lisa Turley, Director of BOEC mentioned that Vickie Rogers, selected as the “2010 Outstanding Team Member”, couldn’t be at the banquet, but was still being honored for her work.

Employees who are not telecommunicators, but who provide exceptional essential services to the Bureau are given this award, we learned. In particular, Rogers was recognized for her diligent work and coordination in the Bureau’s training department.

“We hold this event every year at the start of National Telecommunicator’s Week,” Turley added. This is a self-funded event, she pointed out. “We do fundraisers all year long, and the tickets help pay for the banquet.”

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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