The PSAPs' Finest Awards ceremony was held recently at the national APCO conference in Washington, DC. This year's awards held special significance because it is the tenth anniversary of the program. I'm honored to introduce our impressive line-up of winners for 2015:
Communications Director of the Year Jhonnie Ortiz
Jhonnie Ortiz is the Public Safety Support Manager for Fort Worth (TX) Police Communications. Under Jhonnie's leadership, many positive changes have been made within the Fort Worth 9-1-1 Communications Center, benefiting both employees and the citizens of Fort Worth. Since coming onboard to lead the Communications Division team in April of 2009, Jhonnie has raised the standard of public safety service for Fort Worth citizens. Under Jhonnie's guidance several new programs were implemented which reduced calls waiting in queue, optimized staffing during peak call load times, reduced call processing time, and improved service to Spanish-speaking citizens. Jhonnie also developed several employee driven committees to increase productivity and efficiency. The committees had a positive impact on morale, and in turn created a better work environment. Under her leadership, the center also implemented a Quality Monitoring Program that Managers, Supervisors, and Leads use to identify departmental training needs which are then addressed through morale-building training programs. As any great leader would do, Jhonnie has encouraged every employee to become involved in improving the operations of the Communications Division, through participation in committees, and other activities. Jhonnie's leadership and business expertise has paved the way for some remarkable service improvements, including: a reduction of 9-1-1 calls in queue by 33%, a 2% reduction in Priority 1 dispatch response times, a 2% reduction in Priority 2 dispatch response times, and a 5% reduction in Priority 3 dispatch response times. Also notably, during her tenure, the Fort Worth Communications Center won a national award from the NG 9-1-1 Institute in Washington D.C. as the Outstanding 9-1-1 Call Center in the nation. Under her leadership, the Communications Division has exceeded its goals and expectations in providing better service to the citizens of Fort Worth, and to police officers as well.
Line Supervisor of the Year Hattie Schweitzer
Hattie is the Dispatch Supervisor for SNOPAC 911 in Everett, Washington. Hattie was nominated for the Line Supervisor of the Year award for her overall supervisory excellence, and also for her specific management of an incident that occurred last year. On October 24, 2014 just past 10:30am, 9-1-1 calls flooded in to SNOPAC 911, and radio traffic exploded, as one of the worst events that can happen to a community and dispatch center (an active shooter event on a school campus) unfolded. Reports came in from various sources that several people had been shot at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. Law enforcement and Fire/EMS agencies throughout the county jumped into action, never hesitating in their response to this horrific incident. The professionals within the dispatch center also responded in kind. The team operated like a well-oiled machine, as employees worked through the incident while holding their personal feelings at bay. Hattie Schweitzer was the Center Supervisor on duty during the incident and its immediate aftermath. Hattie immediately focused on providing support to the Center Staff, while also fielding requests from responders. Calls flooded in almost non-stop from the field, assisting agencies, news media, and concerned citizens. Hattie and her team handled all of the calls and requests like pros, never wavering, and never losing control, in spite of the magnitude of the event. Hattie remained the consummate professional throughout, while ensuring that her crew received the attention they needed, and ensuring excellent service to all agencies involved. The emotional demands of such an incident cannot be measured against any standard. Amid the chaos, Hattie rose to the occasion with focus and a calm demeanor. No one can ever be 100% prepared for a situation like this, but it's reassuring to know there are professionals like Hattie who come through in a crisis. Hattie exemplifies SNOPAC's Core Values of Integrity, Professionalism, Respect and Teamwork.
Technician of the Year Tim Simonson
Tim is the Communications Center Technician for Kitsap 911 (CENCOM) in Bremerton, Washington. He was hired primarily for his extensive background in Microwave technology, resulting from his service as a Microwave Technician in the U.S. Army, and various technical positions with Alcatel, NEC and Sprint. But with Tim, Kitsap 911 got so much more! Tim is the epitome of what it means to be "a team player." He helps with any problem without a second thought. He is also one of the most versatile employees at CENCOM, not just knowledgeable about technology, but able to tackle all types of mind-boggling problems. For Tim, no problem is too big or too small, and every problem matters. Tim works closely with the IT employees, assisting with Mobile Computer problems, and assists operations floor employees as well. He is a member of the Employee Recognition Team and is now training to be a part of the Peer Support Group, both voluntary committees. To hear it told, "Tim is there for you when you have a rough day, when your computer is down, when there is a snow storm and you can't get up the hill to work, when you need a second opinion, when you need someone to troubleshoot issues, or when a tower site has issues in the wee hours in the morning." He is also there to celebrate the victories and accomplishments of others. Another of Tim's qualities is creativity. He doesn't just do the job, he's able to envision how just about any job can be done better and more efficiently. He has recommended and implemented many improvements. For example, Tim has been instrumental in suggesting innovative solutions to reduce the number of trips to remote tower sites, such as the use of cameras and remote alarm condition reporting. He always seems to be aware of the next, greatest tool to help improve his agency's efficiency.
Telecommunicator of the Year Juan Rodriquez
Dispatcher Juan Rodriguez (Monterey County Emergency Communications, Salinas, CA) is a veteran dispatcher with almost 10 years of experience. Juan is passionate about making sure that he does his job well and always has the highest regard for citizen and officer safety. Juan is a fluent Spanish speaker and goes out of his way to assist others with translations whenever needed. In March 2014, Dispatcher Rodriguez was working the Salinas Police radio channel, and was on the phone speaking in Spanish with a restaurant employee who was giving updates on a subject who was threatening people in the restaurant with a gun. While Dispatcher Rodriguez was speaking to the employee he heard the shots fired. He was able to switch from Spanish to English instantly while making split second decisions. Juan remained clear and professional throughout the chaotic situation, always being mindful of officer and public safety. Juan's multi-tasking skills are extraordinary, as is his consistently positive attitude, and his professionalism both in dealing with citizens and responding field units.