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National Technology Day featuring Ramya Cruz-Chacko and Kasey Cox

National Technology Day featuring Ramya Cruz-Chacko and Kasey Cox

Written By Destanie Ontiveros, NCT9-1-1 Communications Coordinator

May 11 is known as National Technology Day. This day is celebrated each year to commemorate the importance of researchers, scientists, engineers, and other professionals related to the field of science and technology and honor their hard work in technological advancements. National Technology Day was first celebrated on May 11, 1999, and was established to raise awareness about how technology is developed and to celebrate technology professionals. This National Technology Day, the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District (NCT9-1-1) would like to highlight two women working in technology, specifically within the public safety sector. Combined, Ramya Cruz-Chacko, 9-1-1 Network Engineer, and Kasey Cox, 9-1-1 GIS Data Administrator, have over 25 years’ experience in the technology industry. This National Technology Day, Ramya and Kasey sat down with Destanie Ontiveros, 9-1-1 Communications Coordinator, to discuss their experience working within the technology industry, specifically the public safety sector, to share their successes and to offer advice to other technology professionals.

Ramya Cruz-Chacko

Although Ramya was always interested in pursuing a career in technology, she did not know her passion was network technology within 9-1-1. Following in her brother’s footsteps to pursue a bachelor’s degree in technology, Ramya found her interest in network technology after she graduated. Ramya later moved to Canada to pursue her master’s in internetworking. When asked what interested her in network technology, Ramya said, “I was always curious as to how and why things work the way they do and watching my work come to life is very rewarding.” As far as finding the niche for network technology within 9-1-1 services, Ramya found her purpose by serving the public in providing the best technology solutions for 9-1-1 services. Ramya said her calling has always been to serve the public, specifically by working on network technology for 9-1-1 services. “The most rewarding aspect of my job is being able to serve the community, especially on technology that is so important. Even though technology people aren’t necessarily seen or heard by the public, we still make a difference. We work on the technology that people rely on to call 9-1-1, and that is the most rewarding aspect to my job.”, said Ramya.

When asked what a typical workday as a 9-1-1 Network Engineer looked like, Ramya said, “Being in the technical field means anything could go wrong, so I don’t have set day to day tasks per say, I work on table stakes, new projects, and troubleshooting”. Ramya has worked on a lot of new projects that are completely new to 9-1-1 technology services and must be created from scratch. A lot of Ramya’s job consists of research, learning, testing, and implementing new technology via labs where she and her team of engineers can mock or test the newly developed technology and deploy it.

When it comes to staying up to date on new technology advances, Ramya listens to podcasts about the new technology trends and headlines. Ramya also keeps in communication with other network engineers to discuss the latest and greatest technology trends. One of Ramya’s biggest accomplishments in her career was leading and deploying a new network virtualization technology. During this project, Ramya studied new technology, scripted over 50 configuration files for more than 20 devices between all three DC sites. During this project, several hosts were migrated to the EVPN network with assistance from other NCT9-1-1 technology experts.

Regarding any advice or tips for other people interested in pursuing a career in technology, Ramya encourages more women to join the technology field. “Technology is considered a male dominated field, but even so, women can do this and be successful.”, said Ramya. Ramya encourages more women, especially those who are in school, to think about technology and learn whether they’d like to pursue it. Ramya believes that being a technology professional is very rewarding, especially within the public safety industry.

Kasey Cox

Kasey didn’t always know she wanted to pursue a career in GIS Technology. Kasey originally wanted to be in the environmental science field, which she was. Kasey was actively working as an environmental scientist when she realized it wasn’t for her. Kasey received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and soon realized she enjoyed her GIS focused courses more than the environmental science work. Kasey soon went back to school to earn her Master of Science in Spatial Science when she truly found her interest. Kasey decided to go into Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) technology because she was not enjoying urban environmental science.

As the 9-1-1 GIS Data Administrator for NCT9-1-1, Kasey’s biggest responsibility is to ensure the public safety systems are frequently updated successfully and accurately. Currently, the GIS team at NCT9-1-1 updates the public safety systems twice a week. Another responsibility of Kasey’s is to always look for ways to speed up the workflow on these public safety systems and identify new ways to improve the systems. Kasey’s day to day tasks include monitoring the health of the systems and services that allow the team to collect data from county partners to be reviewed. Kasey also processes the updates and provisions them out to the Next Generation 9-1-1 system. Aside from those big tasks, Kasey also manages the servers that allow data sharing between the open data portals and the public facing web app that are used by county officials and other essential agencies such as post offices.

“My whole experience with GIS has been that it helps other people in some way.”, Kasey mentioned when describing a reason her GIS technology job is rewarding to her. GIS technology is used in all aspects of the world, to implement this technology towards 9-1-1 services is very important and helpful to the public safety industry. “In this role, all the GIS work we do is to help citizens get 9-1-1 services as quickly as possible, and that’s why it matters”, said Kasey. GIS is always done to help others in some way, so to use this technology to help citizens receive better 9-1-1 services is rewarding for Kasey.

When it comes to staying up to date on current GIS technology breakthroughs or news, Kasey mentions the resources she uses from the tight knit GIS community. A lot of the regional GIS community meetings or user groups help Kasey to stay up to date. The ESRI software is also a big resource Kasey uses to stay up to date and grow her knowledge. ESRI offers many webinars that showcase new GIS technologies or new ways of using GIS technology. GIS is a multi-facet industry that allows for many different opportunities to work and improve the use of GIS technology. “Sometimes, hearing about what another GIS team has done really challenges you to think how you can tweak your workflow to make it more efficient.”, said Kasey.

Kasey’s proudest project to date has been creating the current dispatcher base maps. Kasey worked endlessly on this project with the help of her GIS team to ensure the project was successful. Kasey essentially learned a new software to use for the project and learned how to reconfigure maps. Now that this mapping technology has been completed and published, it is available and used in all 40+ of the Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) within NCT9-1-1’s service area and the public web app. Kasey still works on this project continuously applying updates and other maintenance functionalities.

Kasey would like to thank other GIS technology professionals within the public safety industry and says it is an honor to work alongside them. Some tips Kasey has for other GIS technology professionals is to keep working on the GIS data because it is the future for Next Generation 9-1-1, and that she is immensely proud of all the work other GIS professionals have put forth so far. “For people just finding out about GIS, it’s a really fun industry and is a great tool that can be used by any industry out there, so I encourage you to go for it!”, said Kasey when asked about any other tips for future GIS professionals.

Weather Alerts and What They Mean

Weather Alerts and What They Mean

Written By Destanie Ontiveros, NCT9-1-1 Communications Coordinator

We all receive weather alerts, whether it be broadcasted on television, on the radio via public safety announcement, or on weather apps. So, what is the difference between a weather warning, watch, advisory, and outlook, and why is it important to know the difference? In this blog, we will explain the difference and severity level of each of these weather classifications.

A weather warning means weather conditions pose an immediate threat to life or property at a known time or date. When a weather warning is used, it means people in the path of severe weather need to take protective action immediately. An example of this would be a weather warning for a severe thunderstorm that causes flooding, hail, and possible tornadoes. A weather warning is the highest level of weather alert and should be taken seriously.

A weather watch means there is a great risk of hazardous weather, but the exact timing and location of the severe weather is unknown. A weather watch is just what it sounds like; there is expected hazardous weather but has an unknown arrival time and date, so it is recommended to watch the weather and be prepared. A weather watch is the second highest level of weather alert and is used to advise the public to have a plan of action to stay safe.

A weather advisory means hazardous weather is likely to occur soon and can cause significant inconvenience. Weather advisories are issued for less serious weather conditions but still serve as an alert that weather could pose an inconvenience. An example of a weather advisory would be for dense fog. It serves to inform the public that fog is expected and could reduce visibility over an area for an extended period of time. This type of weather alert is issued to advise the public to use caution in the coming weather events.

A weather outlook means there is a possibility of hazardous weather in the next coming week. This type of weather alert is intended to bring awareness to the potential of hazardous weather and to inform the public about the possibility of an upcoming severe weather. A weather outlook is the lowest level of weather alert.

Knowing the difference between these types of weather alerts can help keep you safe in unknown weather. A weather warning means hazardous weather is occurring now. A weather watch means the risk of hazardous weather could happen soon. A weather advisory means hazardous weather is likely to occur. A weather outlook means hazardous weather is possible in the near future. When it comes to the threat of severe weather, have an action plan in place, monitor local news channels, and always stay weather aware.

Resources and Tips to Better Your Mental Health and Wellness

Resources and Tips to Better Your Mental Health and Wellness

Written By Destanie Ontiveros, NCT9-1-1 Communications Coordinator

Since 1949, the United States has recognized May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health and wellness are important year round and the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District (NCT9-1-1) is helping raise awareness by sharing some impactful self-care exercises, tips, and resources. Self-care tips and exercises include meditating, reading, yoga, and resting while professional resources include the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and counseling services.

When we think about mental health and wellness, we often tend to focus on the “mental” aspect of our health and wellness. Mental health and wellness include emotional, psychosocial, and social well-being. To keep from overlooking the emotional and social aspect of mental health and wellness, some exercises that can be helpful are practicing meditation and yoga. Meditation is a great way to clear your head of thoughts and emotions when you need a break. Some days, we need to shut our brains off and reconnect with our bodies. Oftentimes, clearing your head to decompress is effective and helpful.

To further take care of our physical well-being, exercise can be a great outlet to utilize. Whether you’re looking for a low impact form of exercise like yoga, or a high impact form of exercise like running or swimming, exercise in all forms positively impacts one’s mental health. Physical exercise is a great way to take care of your physical health while also helping your mental health and wellness. Sometimes all you need is to blast your favorite band or music genre and focus on your body with a good workout.

We all know we’re supposed to get at least eight hours of rest every night to fully recover and rejuvenate, but sometimes we can underestimate just how much sleep or lack thereof affects our mental health and wellness. The National Institute of Mental Health recommends us to make sleep a priority. To fully rest and refresh our minds, it is important to rest.

Speaking of rest, a great way to wind down for the night is to read. Reading is a great way to let your eyes rest from the strenuous light of technology. We’re all crucially aware of our screen time on our personal devices. What better way to give our eyes and minds a rest than to crack open a book? Reading can be a great way to wind your mind down for the night.

For professional resources, there are counseling services available. Attending counseling services is a great way to manage and maintain your mental health and wellness. If you or a loved one are currently attending public or private school, counseling services are at your disposal. Most insurance policies cover counseling services either for free or at a fraction of the cost. To find a free or low-cost counselor, visit the Therapy Aid Coalition website. The Therapy Aid Coalition also offers free counseling services for all first responders.

Another professional resource is the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. If you or someone you know are struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can call or text the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. You can also chat online at The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is completely free, confidential, and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you or someone you know is in a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1. To learn more about the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, visit the website here.

Mental health and wellness are different for everyone, so it is important to find the resources and or self-care practices that work for you. It may take some practice to find what works for you. We hope the resources and tips shared help you find what you need to positively impact your mental health and awareness.

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!