9-1-1 Telecommunicators- The Responders You Don’t See


It is with a heavy heart that I reflect upon the recent incidents at the Boston Marathon this week.  Seeing responders and citizens joining together to help and support those injured or affected by the bombings is a sad yet inspiring image.  Days such as this are times when 9-1-1 telecommunicators and first responders, heroes’ everyday in their positions, are brought into the spotlight and tasked with responding to and controlling the most difficult of situations.

Through Smart911 I have had the opportunity to work with 9-1-1 agencies all across the country.  The second full week in April is celebrated as National Public Safety Telecommunications Week- a time to honor those 9-1-1 call takes and dispatchers who are often behind the scenes, the men and women who perform their duties each and every day to serve their community and provide the best possible response.  They may not be the faces that you see arriving at the scene of the emergency to provide aid, but they are the voices who calm the callers, who gather vital details about the emergency, and who provide ongoing support and reassurance until help arrives.

In honor of that, Smart911 developed the Smart Telecommunicator Awards to recognize 9-1-1 telecommunicators across the country for their leadership, performance and overall dedication to their public service answering point (PSAP).  In its second year, this awards program has received hundreds of nominations from all over the country and thousands of individuals have logged on to vote for the telecommunicator they believe deserves to be recognized.

This year’s nominations were narrowed down to 12 finalists for an online public vote.  Each and every telecommunicator is deserving of recognition, and this year’s National Winner is Bob Nute, a 9-1-1 Dispatcher in Newtown, CT.

In the midst of the tragedy in Boston I had the privilege to travel to Newtown, CT for what would prove to be an inspiring and heartwarming event.  As the legislative chambers in the Newtown Municipal Complex filled with Newtown employees and community members, it became clear that Bob was a true leader with the town.  As I began to speak about Bob, his nomination, and his involvement in the events on December 14 the room fell quiet and solemn, reflecting not only on that day, but also on the recent events in Boston.

An excerpt from the presentation that morning:

“The Newtown Emergency Communications Center receives approximately 2-3 calls per hour on a typical day, and staffs 2 full time dispatch positions.

On the morning of December 14, 2012, Bob was one of the two dispatchers on duty and at 9:35am received the first call reporting a shooter a Sandy Hook Elementary School.  What followed was a day of panic, chaos, terror and sadness.  While those of us around the country could only watch news reports, praying for the safety and comfort of those affected, Bob worked with his team to answer over 150 calls per hour, coordinating an incredibly complex and dynamic field response dispatching police, fire and EMS units as Newtown’s active shooter policy and mass casualty plan were activated.

As a member of the Newtown community, Bob was personally affected by these events, but was able to maintain his composure and professionalism in order to serve his community.”

As I read these words, Bob and his wife Sue stood beside me, humble yet proud.  As I announced that Bob was the 2013 National Winner of the Smart Telecommunicator Awards it was met with a resounding standing ovation which lasted several minutes. Proud, inspired and supportive faces smiled at Bob from the audience as he quietly accepted his plaque.

Maureen Will, Director of Communications in Newtown nominated Bob for this award. She reminded him, “You are not receiving this award for 12/14. You are receiving this award for your performance on the days before and the days after 12/14.”

It is times like these that I am reminded of the crucial work that 9-1-1 telecommunicators do every day, and how they are deserving of awards all year round. I am proud to work with them, and even prouder to recognize them at this time each year.


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