City of Red Deer Telecommunicator of the Year award recipient Andrea McLean in the City Emergency Services dispatch room on Wednesday.

City honours unsung hero of 911 dispatch centre

You won’t see them wearing badges or driving an ambulance or squad car.

You won’t see them wearing badges or driving an ambulance or squad car.

But these unsung heroes work around the clock, seven days a week ensuring residents get the help they need.

Andrea McLean, one such hero, was named the city’s first Emergency Telecommunicator of the Year at a special ceremony on Wednesday.

The mother of two has worked at the 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Centre for 12 years and was recently promoted to communications lieutenant, a supervisory role.

“There’s certainly no glory in it,” laughed McLean. “But there is personal fulfillment and challenge. It’s different every day.”

McLean grew up in Penhold but has lived in Red Deer for more than 20 years. She said it feels good to be honoured by her peers

Her husband encouraged her to enter the field.

One of her most memorable calls — and it took nearly 11 years — McLean assisted with the birth of a child on the phone.

“That was awesome because we don’t often get many happy celebrations,” said McLean. “The baby came in and we had a meet and greet. It was awesome.”

McLean said the most challenging part of the job is not having closure. She said they often do not know the outcome.

“It’s difficult so we just have to close the door and move on,” said McLean.

McLean said anyone of her coworkers could have received the award.

The peer-nominated award will be presented annually during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, the second week in April.

There are 30 dispatchers that work out of the centre with five or six on shift at any given time. They answer about 150 calls in a typical shift depending on the day.

Cindy Sparrow, assistant deputy chief, said the fire and ambulance dispatches are the voice of hope in the middle of a really dark situation. She said they do not need the recognition but it is nice to honour their work.

“For a lot of people when they call 911 it is not a good day for them,” said Sparrow. “You have a calm and reassuring voice on the other line that knows exactly what to do when you need help.”

Sparrow said the team is highly skilled and as soon as a call is answered, the person is getting help. The dispatchers provide life-saving skills until paramedics, fire trucks or police arrive.

Acting fire chief John Gelinas said the dispatchers are the lifeline between someone who needs help and someone who is going to give it.

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week runs from April 10-16. Celebrated annually, the week honours the thousands of men and women who respond to emergency calls, dispatch emergency professionals and equipment, and render life-saving assistance.

Every year the 911 Emergency Communications Centre in Red Deer receives more than 122,000 calls for police, fire or ambulance.

They receive 9,00 hang-up calls from cellphones, 2,000 hang-up calls from landlines, more than 3,000 wrong numbers and more than 600 prank calls.

For more information on National Public Safety Emergency Telecommuicators Week visit www.npstw.org

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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