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Florida 9-1-1 Dispatcher Wins National 2016 Smart Telecommunicator Awards for Heroic Efforts
Fifth Annual Awards Recognize U.S. 9-1-1 Call-Takers; From Coordinating Abduction Rescue Operations to Preventing Suicides, National Winner and Four Regional Honorees Praised for Excellence, Compassion and Dedication to Saving Lives
In January 2016, Advanced Telecommunicator, Jeff Andress of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office received a 9-1-1 call reporting that a four year-old had been abducted by a male suspect and the two were traveling on a Greyhound bus. After working with Greyhound to identify and locate the bus, which had traveled into Georgia, Andress coordinated rescue efforts with multiple agencies, including the Georgia State Patrol, who ultimately stopped the bus, rescued the child, and apprehended the suspect. For his determination, persistence and utmost professionalism during the incident, from start to finish, Jeff Andress has been selected the national winner of the 2016 Smart Telecommunicator Awards.
April is National 9-1-1 Education Month and the second full week is also celebrated as National Public Safety Telecommunications Week. With this in mind, the fifth annual Smart Telecommunicator Awards from Smart911 opened in March, calling for nominations of 9-1-1 call-takers and dispatchers (telecommunicators) across the U.S. for their leadership, performance, compassion for callers, ability to inspire co-workers and overall contributions to their Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). Dozens of finalist entries were then selected for an online public poll and thousands of people across the U.S. cast their vote in support of a heroic dispatcher. Andress will be honored at a ceremony held in Gainesville, Florida, his hometown.
The nomination for Telecommunicator Andress detailed the story of how he coordinated the rescue of a kidnapped child. His quick thinking lead to the identification of the bus and its location. Andress provided constant updates to numerous agencies including the Gainesville Police Department, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia State Patrol, all while maintaining a calm and methodical demeanor. It is acknowledged by his peers and colleagues that his steady attitude, proficiency, knowledge and commitment to rise above and beyond, directly resulted the saving of the child and arrest of the abductor.
“Jeff has been an inspiration to those around him and he leads by example,” said Mable Parales, communications commander, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. “His commitment and love for his profession places him among very few. Our department is stronger because of him and we are very proud to see him recognized for this much deserved award.”
The annual Smart Telecommunicator Awards are conducted by Rave Mobile Safety’s Smart911, the acclaimed national public safety service, in partnership with the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT) and the Denise Amber Lee Foundation.
Four finalists have also been awarded the title of regional Smart Telecommunicator honorees, including:
- Northeast – Val Smith of the Roscommon County Central Dispatch in northern Michigan took a 9-1-1 call from a mobile phone, which upon answering, was disconnected by the caller. Fortunately, Smith was able to establish a voice connection with the caller, a teenage female who expressed she was too afraid to speak. Using Smart911Chat, Smith initiated a text/SMS session with the young woman who revealed via text message that she had been assaulted and the assailant was still present. Smith, in a professional and calm manner, was able to ascertain critical information from the caller and guide her to a safe location. Smith’s quick thinking and innovative use of tools and resources available to her, made it possible for the young victim to be quickly located and receive the help she needed.
- Southeast – Damaris Hernandez of the Orange County Fire Rescue Department, serving Orlando, Florida and the surrounding area, received a call for help from a woman who reported her husband was experiencing a cardiac event. Despite the caller being challenging and abusive at times, Hernandez maintained the utmost professionalism. Recognizing that life-saving action was immediately necessary, she guided the caller through administering CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), while simultaneously dispatching emergency medical services. After recovery, the patient came to the Orange County Fire Rescue Department dispatch center and requested to meet the telecommunicator who saved his life. He directly attributed that he was still alive to Hernandez’s actions that day.
- Central – Presley Bumgarner at the St. Francis County Sheriff’s Office in eastern Arkansas answered a very distressing 9-1-1 call, regarding a fellow officer who had taken his own life. The officer was a close friend to the department and was considered family, making this emergency very emotional for all involved. Setting her feelings aside, Bumgarner maintained her professional composure, and performed her job admirably during a very upsetting time, earning the praise of her colleagues at the department.
- West – Samantha Denning of the Paradise Valley Police Department, located outside Phoenix, Arizona, answered a 9-1-1 call from a young woman reporting she was suicidal. Denning compassionately engaged the caller while also dispatching officers. As the situation seemed to grow more dire and officers not yet having arrived, Denning needed to act quickly. Remembering that the caller mentioned she had dogs, she asked the caller who would care for the them if she was not there. This caused the woman to pause and wait for officers to arrive. Quick thinking, expertise and persistence saved the young woman’s life.
In addition to the Smart Telecommunicator Awards, Smart911 will present a donation of $1,000 in Andress’s name to Big Cat Rescue, located in Tampa, Florida. Each regional honoree will also receive a $500 donation to charities of their choosing.
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- People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (via Rave Mobile Safety, 4/15/16)