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Once a telecommunicator, always a telecommunicator. We are proud to say nearly 25% of current PowerPhone team members are former telecommunicators, PSAP supervisors, and trainers. Founded by the frontline, we rely on and value our team’s public safety expertise because it influences and shapes the products and services we provide to the 911 community.

This National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, we are spotlighting the 911 leaders who have sat in the seat and now dedicate their time and expertise in roles at PowerPhone. Their current mission: helping telecommunicators around the country transform information into action. Every call. Every time.

Please be advised that the content below discusses critical calls involving various emergency scenarios.

What we loved about being 911 telecommunicators.

Doug Boone, Support Specialist, was a telecommunicator in Tennessee for 23 years. Doug says his favorite part of this crucial job was, “Keeping the responders as safe as I could.” Telecommunicators must collect information as quickly and accurately as possible and ask the right questions to ensure officers, firefighters, and EMS are sent to the scene with as much relevant information as possible. Joe Lefebvre, Implementation Manager, who has worked in public safety for 15 years as a firefighter, paramedic, and telecommunicator, agrees. “What I loved about the job was the comradery with the officers and firefighters. Helping them do their job as safely as possible.”

Ann Trotto, Course Approval Specialist, was a telecommunicator for seven years in Massachusetts, and says her favorite part of the job was the ability to help people. “It’s all about helping people. The feeling I would get at the end of a call when I know I was able to get it dispatched and have a responder there within minutes, whether it was something as simple as a shoplifter, or as serious as an overdose.”

The calls that you’ll never forget.

Summer Bartlett, Account Associate, was an Oregon telecommunicator for almost 12 years. “My most memorable call was the time when I was scanning the public works channel and heard an employee yelling to their office on the radio to call 911. I could tell by their tone and yelling, it was bad. So, I asked my partner to call our private ambulance company and I sent the fire department immediately. I think I said something to the effect of, ‘Just go to this location, I don’t know what’s going on, but I heard them yelling for help.’ Their office staff called 911 shortly after and we reassured them that help was already on the way. An employee was working in a 10-foot trench cutting a pipe, when the saw kicked back and hit him in the neck, severing his trachea. The fire department personnel, public works personnel, the ambulance personnel, and I, were all honored for the quick and effective assistance rendered. It’s an amazing story.”

Joe Dunn, Account Manager, was a Connecticut telecommunicator for three years. Joe told us about an impactful moment for him that was from a child caller. “One time I took a call from a young child whose mother was choking. I heard her gasping for air in the background, but the child was too young to help clear the obstruction. Not being able to do anything besides keep the child calm was a terrible feeling. Luckily, the fire department was close by and able to get there in time. Learning that the mother was okay was one of happiest moments of my life!”

Sometimes calls come in from unexpected locations. For Implementation Manager Joe Lefebvre it was from Canada while he was answering 911 calls in Massachusetts. “I took a 911 call from a stranded female who was rear ended on a remote roadway in CANADA at 2am. I could have easily told her to call her local police department, but her cell phone was almost dead and the male that struck her was still there. I kept her on the line and used mapping software to best guess her location and found the nearest PD almost 50 minutes away. I contacted them and they dispatched an officer. I advised the caller but then her phone died. I felt helpless. When I followed up with the PD an hour later, they told me they found her and ended up arresting the male for very “suspicious” reasons. She was safely escorted home.”

Driven by purpose.

Support Specialist Doug Boone told us about another call that helped him remember why he chose 911 as a profession. “I received a call from an 11-year-old girl who was walking on the train tracks with her 6-year-old brother. The little boy got his shoe stuck in the track and his sister could not free it. She was able to call 911 about the same time as she heard the train whistle. I began trying to help her with ideas to free his foot while in the background having my partner call the railroad. They informed us they had a pusher engine and there was no way they would be able to stop in time. The little girl could not free his foot so I instructed her to grab his upper body and pull it as far as she could away from the track. All the while, I had police running code to get to them. He was crying, the little girl was crying, and I was screaming for her to pull. I could hear the train getting closer and my heart sank as I heard it pass. The little boy lost the tip of three toes, but his life was spared. I was able to meet them a short time after and the little boy hugged me and said thank you for saving my life. I never will forget that one.”

Erin Winslow, Implementation Manager, who was a telecommunicator for 20 years in Virginia, talks about a moment that led her to discovering her passion in Public Safety. “My sergeant called me into her office and told me I was chosen to represent dispatch on a committee for mental health advocacy. That was the beginning of my work in Crisis Intervention. I found a passion for the work I never knew I had.”

Gary LeTourneau, Implementation Manager, was a telecommunicator, supervisor, assistant director and director for 29 years in Michigan and Indiana. “An elderly man called in about chest pain and was disconnected. I was very green and called them back to check on him and I learned he was in cardiac arrest. I was able to instruct his family to give him CPR. He survived. I later met the family and received an award, and learned just how much of a difference I could make.”

Adriana Sorge, Implementation Manager, served nearly 23 years in Tennessee as a telecommunicator, floor supervisor, communications supervisor, and assistant director. “Having the opportunity to make a meaningful impact in people’s lives during critical moments makes it all worth it.”

Jim Jones, Content Manager, was a telecommunicator, CTO, supervisor, and training coordinator in Illinois, just outside of Chicago for 16 years. “I met my best friends working in 911. Even while dealing with people in distress or people who were not pleasant to deal with, I was surrounded by and worked with some of the best people.”

Advice from one telecommunicator to another.

We asked our team of former 911 professionals to pass along some of the wisdom they gained throughout their careers.

“Do what you love. If that means staying in the seat for 50 years, do it. If that means moving up in the ranks, do it. Do what makes you happy in this career. The overtime and the mental toll can be a lot, but at least be happy doing what you’re doing while you’re doing it!” – Summer Bartlett, Account Associate

“Talk about your bad shifts with someone. Don’t bottle up all the traumatic things you experience. You won’t regret talking about it.” – Doug Boone, Support Specialist

“Don’t forget the person on the other end of the phone is a human and may not being having the best day of their life if they’re calling 911. Give them everything you’ve got.” – Gary LeTourneau, Implementation Manager

“Take advantage of as much training as possible. Always continue to train for the future, so you can pivot if you need to. And always be open to new technology in the industry because it can really help you do your job.” – Erin Winslow, Implementation Manager

“Take care of yourself first.” – Jim Jones, Content Manager

“Self-care and mental health are vitally important. Being a 911 telecommunicator is a job that is incredibly emotionally challenging.” – Adriana Sorge, Implementation Manager

“I think a lot of telecommunicators believe they don’t have opportunity for career advancement and that they aren’t learning transferable skills. The situations you face and decisions you need to make daily teach you skills that are extremely transferrable in both private and public sectors. In other words, being a telecommunicator teaches you many ‘soft skills’ that are hard to get in other types of jobs. Don’t undervalue your experience!” – Joe Dunn, Account Manager

“Empathy and multi-tasking skills are a priority. You are the central hub between chaos and calm.” – Joe Lefebvre, Implementation Manager

“Be sure to talk about your bad calls with someone. Whether it be a co-worker or a professional, it will help.” – Ann Trotto, Course Approval Specialist

Thank you for all that you do.

We know it’s not easy. We know because we’ve been there. But even with the understaffing, the emotional toll, the long hours, and more, you are still in those seats. Answering the calls of those at their most vulnerable, on their worst days.

Be proud of what you do! It takes a special type of person to do this job, and here at PowerPhone, we see you, we hear you, we appreciate you, and we do what we do to help YOU.