PSAPs’ Finest Flashback: Kathy Bobot, Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office

In recognition of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week which takes place this year from April 10th through the 16th, NICE will be publishing the stories of some of our previous PSAPs’ Finest Award winners. Below is a story on Kathy Bobot, a 2006 PSAPs’ Finest Telecommunicator of the Year.

In her 15 years as a telecommunicator for the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, NICE Telecommunicator of the Year Kathy Bobot had taken her share of prank 9-1-1 calls from mischievous kids. But something in this child’s voice made Kathy certain it was the real thing. It was 5:30 pm on an evening in January 2005. Kathy was in the middle of a 16-hour shift when the cellular 9-1-1 call came in.

“You could just hear the shaking in this little boy’s voice,” said Kathy. “The more I listened to him, the more I knew it was a real call.” The 9-year old child had been a passenger in his grandmother’s car when she lost consciousness behind the wheel. “He just kept on saying ‘I don’t know where we are,’” said Kathy.

Kathy was able to quickly calm the boy so that he could relay the vehicle’s location. “I asked him where they started out when they were driving. He had no idea where they were. He got out of the car and read the street sign to me,” explained Kathy, who then stayed on the line to reassure the boy until emergency personnel arrived on the scene.

One of the ironies for telecommunicators like Kathy is that while they ‘live’ for the call where they can help someone in dire need, they rarely get to know how things turn out. But that was not the case in this instance for Kathy – this happy ending caught the attention of a local Milwaukee TV station that covered the story on the evening news.

In the end, thanks to the little boy’s courageousness and Kathy’s quick thinking, medical personnel were able to administer care to the grandmother for the diabetic induced seizure that had caused her to lose consciousness while driving her automobile. “The grandmother was fine,” said Kathy. “And she was absolutely thrilled that her grandson had the wherewithal to dial 9-1-1 and get help.”

Deputy Inspector Jerianne Feiten with the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office, who nominated Kathy for the NICE Telecommunicator of the Year award, says that Kathy’s ability to remain cool, calm and collected, and stay focused – as she did in this situation – is what sets her apart as a telecommunicator.

Kathy, who hails from a family of law enforcement professionals – (her father is a former police officer and dispatcher, and her brother is a former police officer with the Milwaukee Police Department) – says that public safety telecommunications was a natural fit for her from day one.

“My father encouraged me to take the test to become a telecommunicator. I did and I scored high,” she said. She says that over the years she has found that good listening and multi-tasking skills, and the ability to handle stress, have been essential to her success on the job.

“I used to work in an office environment where everybody was stressed,” she said. “But you really don’t know what stress is until you enter this profession.” Still, Kathy thrives on the high-stakes and unpredictability of emergency communications. “It’s very interesting. You go home every day and the next day is different,” she said. And, she adds, every call is different. “Each call could be life or death. You never know what’s going to come next.”

Feiten says that another thing that makes Kathy stand out as a Telecommunicator of the Year is her willingness to go above and beyond, and take on projects outside of the scope of her regular 9-1-1 operator duties.

Designated as the cellular PSAP for the Milwaukee metro area and the nerve center for County-wide emergency management activities, the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office  communications center employs cutting edge technology, including a new E9-1-1 system, a County-wide 800 Mhz trunked radio system, a state-of-the-art Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, and mobile data computers. On her own accord, Kathy has taken an active role to ensure the successful implementation of these solutions for the center.

“Kathy has taken it upon herself to learn about the technology within our dispatch center. She’s very well-rounded,” said Feiten. “When we need to troubleshoot problems, we can depend on her. And, Feiten says, Kathy does it all for no incentive other than “her desire to learn and come to work and work hard.”

“Last year brought many changes to our communications division,” said Feiten. “One of which was becoming the designated Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for cellular calls in Milwaukee County. Our PSAP now takes more than a half-million cellular 9-1-1 calls annually. Kathy took a lead role in implementing our new Power 911 Positron telephone system which enables us to improve our handling of both wireless and landline calls.”

According to Feiten, Kathy has also taken the lead in maintaining the County’s mobile data network.” Our radio system supports an entire mobile data computer network,” said Feiten. “We needed a specialist to assign logins and troubleshoot any problems with activating or deactivating computers.” Again, when the call went out for someone to help, Kathy raised her hand.

Kathy is also one of a handful of Milwaukee County telecommunicators who have successfully completed training to become Certified Training Officers. The week-long program, administered by the state of Wisconsin, includes sessions on various dispatching and law enforcement topics, combined with training-oriented classes on instructional development and learning theory.

“Kathy took it upon herself to implement a telecommunicator training program for our center, including developing new training materials,” said Feiten. “She recognizes that training is key to being a good public safety telecommunicator, and she has taken on this role and made it her niche.”

When asked why Kathy should be recognized as a NICE 2006 Telecommunicator of the Year, Feiten summed it up this way. “I’m very happy that Kathy was accepted as a recipient of this award. Over her 15 years as a telecommunicator, she has successfully handled numerous incidents, ranging from life threatening emergencies to fatal accidents to officer involved pursuits. She always welcomes new challenges and volunteers in any way she can to improve our agency and make the community a better place to live. She has become a role model for other telecommunicators in our center.”​​​​​

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