They say lightening never strikes twice in the same place. But this year it did. For the second time in a row, a telecommunicator from Ottawa County Central Dispatch Authority (OCCDA) took home the PSAPs' Finest Telecommunicator of the Year Award. Last year's recipient was
Elvita Lewandowski. Following in her footsteps this year, another OCCDA telecommunicator,
Ryan Culver, was named Telecommunicator of the Year for 2018.
Recently I had an opportunity to talk to Ryan about what he loves most about his work and what being recognized as PSAPs' Finest Telecommunicator of the Year has meant to him.
What attracted you to a career in public safety communications?
Ryan: I had the opportunity to work with my local dispatch center as a paid on-call fire fighter for six years prior to applying. I enjoyed listening to the organized chaos and was impressed by how well they handled themselves during these high stress events.
My first experience with a 911 PSAP was during a job shadow event with a neighboring agency. It was Cinco de Mayo and I was only scheduled to stay for a couple hours. I enjoyed it so much I stayed at the center until two in the morning! If the shift supervisor had let me, I probably would have stayed for the entire shift.
I have always been fascinated with becoming a 911 professional and have a great deal of respect for anyone who is willing to put on a headset and listen to people during their worst of times.
What is your most memorable career experience?
Ryan: I have several memorable calls in my career so far, the first one that comes to mind was a husband on the line, reporting his wife had collapsed and was not breathing. He lived in a rural area and response was longer than usual. I began instructing the husband how to perform chest compressions and he did it, for over eight minutes, stopping only when the first responders arrived on the scene.
Miraculously, they were able to get a pulse back on the female and she ended up making a full recovery. I had the opportunity to meet my caller and his wife and it was a very surreal moment for me. That was the first time I realized he was not just a voice over the phone, but a person/neighbor in need. I think the best part about the entire situation was when my wife recognized them eating ice cream at a local ice cream parlor six months later. That is when it hit me, if not for the quick actions of 911 professionals, she may not have been there eating an ice cream cone with her husband.
What do you most love about what you do?
Ryan: I love helping people! I've been given the opportunity to help a lot of people every day. I also like how every day is different and you never know what to expect until you put on your headset and answer the first call.
What advice would you have for others thinking about a similar career path?
Ryan: It's a great way to serve your community! It can be a very difficult profession at times, but it can also be so rewarding. If you are a parent, you are going to experience a stressful call involving children. And it's something you need to overcome. If this is a career you are thinking about pursuing, I would recommend sitting in at your local 911 center to see if it's truly what you were expecting before making a career change.
What does it mean to be recognized with a PSAP's Finest Award?
Ryan: Being recognized with a PSAPs' Finest Award reassures me that I've picked the right career. And I am on the right track professionally. Being recognized by one of my supervisors in this manner gives me a huge amount pride and confidence in my skills. I hope to continue and grow as a 911 professional and lead by example for new hires.
Ryan received his PSAPs' Finest award at the 2018 APCO Conference in Las Vegas recently. While he was in Vegas, he and two other members of the Ottawa County Central Dispatch team
came to the aid of an unconscious woman, pulling her out of a swimming pool and performing CPR. As the article points out, Culver and his colleagues took turns with the lifeguard performing CPR until emergency personnel arrived.
Culver and his fellow dispatchers shared their story in a
recent Within the Trenches podcast interview. Have a listen
About the PSAPs' Finest Awards
Know someone you'd like to nominate for a PSAPs' Finest award? Nominations for the 2019 PSAPs' Finest Awards will open in January 2019. Individuals interested in submitting a nomination can nominate someone in any of these seven categories: Director, Line Supervisor, Technician, Trainer,
Telecommunicator, Innovator, 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: http://finest.nice-files.com/.