A Tribute to Telecommunicators

A Tribute to Telecommunicators

Written By Christy Williams, NCT9-1-1 Director

My heart is overflowing!  I just had the honor and privilege of tagging along while NCT9-1-1 staff delivered ECC gifts for National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week.

There was a day when visits to the 9-1-1 centers were part of my everyday life.  However, jobs change, responsibilities have evolved, and I rarely get this opportunity anymore.  You see, I began my 9-1-1 career in public education and training and then moved into a broader operations role.  These responsibilities kept me in the centers on a regular basis.

In my first days on the job, I was “schooled” by an amazing 9-1-1 dispatch manager.  Upon meeting me on my first visit to Johnson County SO, Beth Gilreath immediately called my boss and asked him if I could spend the week with her, learning what working in a 9-1-1 center meant.  That week set the stage for my entire career as I learned about the caring, resourceful, problem solving 9-1-1 telecommunicators in Johnson County.  I laughed until my side hurt, wiped tears from my eyes as emotions overcame me and gained a respect for these amazing people who called themselves 9-1-1 telecommunicators.  They were a true family, and they took care of their deputies, field responders and their community.  They worked as a team and got the job done, regardless of the circumstances.  I previously had no idea what went on behind the scenes.  Although I didn’t understand it all at the time, I knew these were special people with a calling and a purpose and I wanted to help them.  My first contribution was small.  They needed a large wall map (no there were no 9-1-1 computers for GIS maps in 1991).  I went back to my office and asked a database coordinator to print a large map of the county and I spent several days coloring that map with colored pencils to differentiate the cities, fire districts and ETJs.  It warmed my heart each time I went back to that center and saw how they used that map on the wall regularly.  I was hooked.  I knew I needed to find tools and train these wonderful people to try to make their job a little easier and their day a little brighter.

I was rarely in my office as my time was better spent in the communities we serve and in the 9-1-1 centers.  I got to know the supervisors and 9-1-1 telecommunicators and spent time with them training, talking about their problems and challenges as well as potential resources and tools.  If I was lucky, they would share about a victorious call, although I usually had to pry those stories out of them as they were “just doing their job” and didn’t feel those success stories were any big deal.  But I wanted the world to know about these great people and what they did so I began nominating them for awards and pitching positive stories to the media about these 9-1-1 heroes.  I invited 9-1-1 telecommunicators to attend community education events and school presentations with me to educate about 9-1-1.  They became my TAG (Together Accomplishing Goals) team and allowed us to scale our educational efforts over 14 counties. Above and beyond all that, they became my friends.

While I knew there were frustrations about the job from our conversations and training, and I understood it was a challenge to keep out the negativity of being underpaid, underappreciated and working shiftwork, all I could see when I was in a 9-1-1 center was their hearts. They were “my people” and they drove me to share their mission of saving lives and making a difference.  While I knew I could never do what they did, I had to do what I could to facilitate positive change and improvements for 9-1-1.   This is why NCT9-1-1 became early adopters.

Years later after I had been promoted and didn’t get to spend as much time in the centers, I went to an ECC.  When I walked up to the window, instead of being met with hugs, “Christy is here” or even “the 9-1-1 lady is here”, I was asked for my ID.  I conducted my business with strangers that day as there had been turn over and too much time had passed since I visited regularly.  When I returned to my car I cried.

I heard a podcast recently where they were talking about finding your people and your purpose.  I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually had to think about that for a moment.  But today, after spending a short time with wonderful 9-1-1 telecommunicators and supervisors, it hit me like a brick.  These are still my people and serving them is my purpose.  As I listened about their staffing challenges and what they were doing to improve things, I was so proud of them.  They discussed mental health openly and my appreciation for them swelled.  I am so thankful for the selfless service they provide!

9-1-1 telecommunicators in the North Central Texas Region and around the country – you remind me of why I am here.  You encourage me that dealing with politics and red tape is worth it, you motivate me to continue to strive for positive change.  Most of all you inspire me.  I am in awe of your sacrifices, your service and your heart.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.  Happy Telecommunicator’s Week!

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