The City of Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) today celebrated National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week at its annual employee awards ceremony honoring the outstanding contributions of 9-1-1 call takers, dispatchers, supervisors and other OEMC personnel including 3-1-1 non-emergency operators and aviation communications operators at O’Hare and Midway International airports.
“On behalf of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City of Chicago, we are proud to applaud the extraordinary dedication of our staff in a service that is often very challenging,” said OEMC Executive Director Rich Guidice. “No matter what the role or circumstance, our call takers, dispatchers, emergency management staff, public safety information technology workforce, traffic control aides and crossing guards contribute to the overall operations citywide and the critical task of keeping residents of this city safe and secure, whether it’s on a routine day or during a high-profile event."
April is National 9-1-1 Education Month and this year the week of April 14 through April 19 was highlighted to acknowledge those working in the public safety communications field.
Police Communications Operators and Fire Communications Operators work daily with first responders behind the scenes to help save lives. Situations in chaotic, critical times challenge these key personnel, yes they demonstrate tremendous professionalism time and time again. Below are excerpts of a select few awards distributed at the ceremony:
Team Performance: OEMC’s 3rd Watch/Afternoons Personnel Recognized for Excellence in Dispatch of Mercy Hospital Active Shooter Incident
On November 19, 2018, at approximately 3:15 p.m., the 9-1-1 Operations Floor received the first call for the Active Shooter incident at Mercy Hospital, in which four lives were lost including Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez. Within seconds, the 9-1-1 Center was inundated with calls and reports of a male Hispanic armed with an assault rifle, actively shooting on the hospital grounds. Police Call Taker Theia Brown was the responding call taker for one of the victims as she pleaded for her life with the gunman. Brown remained on the line while shots rang out and the victim took her last breath. During this traumatic call, Brown maintained focus and continued to update her colleagues handling the zone dispatch with all information as expeditiously as possible. Dispatcher Bianca Smith – the primary dispatcher – simulcasted the Active Shooter in Progress as well as the 10-1 (Officer Needs Immediate Assistance) events over the zone and citywide frequencies while her partner, Dispatcher Jason Martinez actively worked to keep Smith and the responding officers updated. On the Fire Side of the 9-1-1 floor, Fire Call Takers Briana Varnes and Kate Kantner played critical roles as part of the larger team, calmly handling notifications, radio transmissions and call taking. OEMC is proud of the all hands-on deck effort by the 3rd Watch. Whether they answered the calls, supported dispatching, or comforting those who were struggling with the gravity of the incident, every member of the watch came together during this crisis.
Award of Merit: Actions Lead to Arrest of Domestic Violence Homicide Offender, Recovery of Child Attempting to Flee with Son at Airport
In January 2018, a Police Call Taker, while assigned to the Alternate Response Section, received a call from a concerned employer whose employee stated she believed her son may have just killed the mother of her grandchild in Chicago. The employer could offer no further information at the time except for a contact number of his employee. When the Call Taker contacted the woman, she was able to obtain a location of occurrence for the incident and was informed that a 15-month-old may be at the location with the deceased mother. A while later, the employer reached a Supervisor on the 9-1-1 Operations Floor. The Supervisor created a new event in connection with the original report done by the Call Taker, with additional information, including a description of the offender and his cell phone number, and ensured a 3rd District Supervisor was assigned. When officers arrived, they found a crime scene but could not locate the child. Using the information obtained by the 9-1-1 Supervisor and Call Taker, detectives were able to ping the offender’s cell phone; this led to the arrest of the offender at the airport before he could flee the city, along with the rescue of the endangered child.
Commendation Award: 911 Call Taker Saves Life of Suicidal Resident
In January 2018, a Police Call Taker took a call of a troubled individual threatening suicide. The caller was threatening to hang himself and stated he could see himself committing the act. Recognizing the caller was in crisis, the Call Taker immediately began utilizing her Mental Health Awareness training in an attempt to save his life. She displayed active listening skills as well as distracting techniques, attempting to keep the caller calm to let him know that there was someone who cared about him. Using empathy and compassion, the Call Taker kept him engaged until EMS service responded to his location. As a result of her specialized mental health awareness training and dedication to public safety, the incident came to a close without loss of life to the resident. The call has since been used by OEMC’s Training Division as an example to others on how to process calls involving individuals in crisis.
Award of Merit: Aviation Communications Operator Keeps Midway Airport Safe from Potential Harm
On September 18, 2018, exactly a week after the remembrance of 9/11, Midway International Airport experienced a security breach whereby an employee of the airlines failed to cooperate with TSA officials during a random security screening. The airline employee dropped his backpack and ran from the security screening team. The subject was quickly lost in the crowd and not immediately located. The Aviation Communications Operator immediately identified the subject by his last known swipe location. Upon the positive ID she was able to suspend airport access from all secured areas of the airport, trace his whereabouts by using camera surveillance, and confirm his direction of flight. The operator’s quick thinking and knowledge of airport operations kept passengers, visitors, and employees safe from possible harm.
Team Performance Award: Flawless Coordination of Dispatch and Resources for Officer Shot in Vest
In November 2018, at 6th District officers began shouting over their zone about an offender running northbound with a gun. The primary dispatcher immediately obtained the officer’s location and sent assist units. While assisting officers were en route, the 6th District officer reported over the air that the offender was down. Soon after, the officer realized his partner had also been shot in the vest and needed an ambulance. Police dispatchers assigned to different zones overheard the primary dispatcher say that an officer was down and requested an ambulance. In the meantime, additional dispatchers coordinated a multi-district response and implemented traffic control measures with the surrounding districts and suburb, to ensure the safe transport of the injured officer by CFD to Little Company of Mary Hospital. They worked seamlessly as a team, illustrating professionalism and dedication to duty as well as a true concern for the safety of the police officer.
OEMC Employee of the Year: 9-1-1 Supervisor Receives Record Number of Nominations for Leadership and Commitment
Each year, OEMC solicits nominations from staff for its Employee Awards Ceremony. In an unprecedented case, Supervising Police Communications Officer Tim Moran was nominated by 21 individuals– an OEMC record – for Employee of the Year. Common themes emerged from the nominations, commending Moran for his ability to lead, strong work ethic, and his true love and commitment to his job. A model supervisor, Moran is hands-on, solution-oriented, professional, knowledgeable, and fair. In an often chaotic and stressful setting, Moran strives to create a positive and motivating environment for the 9-1-1 team and is an exemplary teacher and leader, who has earned overwhelming respect from his staff. From roll call training to individual counseling, Moran treats everyone with respect and patience. He is often described as “the best of the best” in his humility and readiness to jump in and assist with any given incident. Because of Tim Moran, Chicago’s 9-1-1 Center better serves the City’s residents and visitors.
Chicago’s 9-1-1 Center is the home of several award-winning call takers, dispatchers and training personnel, with outstanding achievements recognized nationally and statewide. OEMC’s 9-1-1 call takers are trained for three months, 9-1-1 dispatchers are trained for 6 months and 9-1-1 supervisors are trained for an additional six weeks.
OEMC is proud of the commitment and contribution of Chicago's Dispatch Operations personnel for their work on behalf of all those who live, work and play in Chicago.
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