Being a 9-1-1 telecommunicator is probably one of the most challenging jobs you can have, and also one of the most rewarding. 2017 PSAPs’ Finest Telecommunicator of the Year
Elvita Lewandowski knows this all too well. Elvita, who was recently promoted to Supervisor for the Ottawa County Central Dispatch Authority in West Olive, Michigan, has been a 9-1-1 telecommunicator for eleven years, and during those eleven years she has seen it all. Recently I asked Elvita how she began her career and what she loves most about working in a 9-1-1 center.
What attracted you to a career in public safety communications?
As a young child I was always intrigued with the public safety profession. My father was a police officer for 30 years and my brother became a firefighter when I was a teenager. The direct family connection to the public safety profession combined with listening to the scanner and watching public safety based TV shows kept my interest. As I grew older I knew this was the profession I wanted to be a part of but I wasn't quite sure how to make it happen until I saw the posting in the local paper and applied. Eleven years ago I took a chance when I applied for this job and today there is nothing else I can imagine doing.
What is your most memorable career experience?
There are two memorable career experiences that stand out the most to me. First, I had the honor of assisting the delivery of a baby over the phone while responders were en-route. There is nothing like hearing a baby cry for the first time, especially when you help deliver it! The experience is very emotional and I am so happy that I had that rare opportunity to be a part of that family's miracle. My second most memorable moment is when I was nominated for, and received, the 2017 National Telecommunicator of the Year award from NICE! Over the past eleven years I have worked hard to improve my skills, knowledge, and abilities and it is a wonderful feeling to be recognized by other public safety professionals for my work.
What do you most love about what you do?
I love knowing I make a difference in the lives of not only my callers but also those I work with. Every day we are faced with different obstacles and situations that are beyond our control. I have the ability to give life-saving instructions, be a mentor to my peers, teach the importance of 9-1-1 to the public, and so much more. We are truly the first first responders and our citizens know that they can trust we will be there to help them when they need it the most. One of my passions is going out into the community to educate as many individuals as possible about 9-1-1. Not many individuals have a real understanding of what 9-1-1 is or does, so this is extremely important to me.
What advice would you have for others thinking about a similar career path?
This will be one of the most challenging careers you could ever work in, but you will never find a more rewarding career in my opinion. Being a 9-1-1 professional takes a lot of focus and dedication. In order to succeed you must surround yourself with those who will help you grow and push you to learn – those who are true change agents – or you will become stagnant and burn out quickly. This profession is ever-changing so you must be flexible, challenge yourself, and work hard every day.
What does it mean to be recognized with a PSAP's Finest Award?
It is such an honor to be recognized with the PSAP's Finest Telecommunicator award. Receiving the award was a form of affirmation that all of my hard work has paid off. I am energized and excited about the future of 9-1-1 and I am fortunate to be a part of it.
Nominations are now open for the 2018 PSAPs' Finest Awards
Know someone you'd like to nominate for a PSAPs' Finest award? Nominations for
2018 PSAPs' Finest Awards
are now open. You can submit a nomination in any of these seven categories: Director
, Line Supervisor
, and PSAP of the Year
Since its inaugural year, the PSAPs' Finest Awards program has recognized more than fifty deserving individuals employed in the field of emergency communications. Winners are selected by an independent judging panel from the 9-1-1 community, which evaluates the nominees based on their professionalism, accomplishments, and service to their communities. Learn more by visiting the PSAPs' Finest Award program website here: