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!