One of the distinct privileges I’ve had during my 7+ year career here at NICE is administering the PSAPs’ Finest Awards program. For those of you who are not familiar with the PSAPs’ Finest Awards, it’s an annual program, sponsored by NICE, that recognizes individuals who work in 9-1-1.
It started in 2006 as a telecommunicator recognition program and branched out to include other 9-1-1 roles. Although NICE administers the program, we have very little other involvement. Candidates are nominated by their peers; and judged by a panel of 9-1-1 professionals who volunteer their time to meticulously read, evaluate and rate every nomination. While each nominee is unique, they all have one thing in common – they are everyday heroes doing extraordinary things.
Take for example, 2011 PSAPs’ Finest Telecommunicator of the Year Award recipient Christopher Scott with Thurston 9-1-1 Communications. Chris answered a call from a distraught mother whose infant was choking and not exchanging air correctly. He used his training to immediately verify the address to allow the responding units to be dispatched. He walked the caller through the “back blows” (the infant equivalent to the Heimlich maneuver) to attempt to get the obstruction dislodged. After numerous “back blows” a piece of plastic was expelled and the baby started breathing again. Chris’s handling of the high pressure incident was picture perfect. He didn’t miss a beat. But the extraordinary twist to this story was that the caller was his own wife, Janna, and the baby was his own 6 month old baby boy Jakob. Talk about calmness and professionalism under extreme pressure!
The story of Angela Lucas, a Lead Dispatcher for Lake-Sumter EMS (Mount Dora, Florida), also tugged at my heartstrings. In February 2007, Angela agreed to take an additional shift for a co-worker who needed time off. On that day, the area experienced the devastation now known as the Groundhog Day Tornadoes. Angela stepped up to the challenge and played a key role in providing a quick, calm response to the disaster. But beyond her professional accomplishments, Angela Lucas displayed a compassion that had a broad sphere of influence. That compassion played itself out in a life-saving situation in 2009. Angela heard, through the work grapevine, that a co-worker – a paramedic who Angela had only met once – needed a kidney transplant. That co-worker, who herself had already donated one of her kidneys to her own brother, was experiencing kidney failure. No one else in the paramedic’s family was a compatible match. When Angela heard about this, she immediately contacted the paramedic. Angela was tested and found to be a match. Ten days after her wedding day, Angela checked into the hospital for transplant surgery. On October 15, 2009, events came full circle when Angela Lucas received the Lake-Sumter EMS’ True North Award, presented to her by that very same co-worker, in recognition of her selfless dedication to others and her willingness to give the gift of life. For me, Angela Lucas not only exemplifies the best qualities of a successful Telecommunicator. She exemplifies the best qualities of what it means to be human.
I could go on and on with other stories. But perhaps you have an extraordinary story of your own you’d like to share. Do you know a 9-1-1 professional who has made a real difference in your center or community? What better way to recognize them than with a PSAPs’ Finest Award! Please take a few minutes to complete an online form to nominate that individual. You can also read more about past award winners here: http://finest.nice-files.com/.