Newtown, Connecticut 9-1-1 Dispatcher Named National Winner of the Smart Telecommunicator Awards


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Second Annual Awards Program Recognizes 9-1-1 Call-Takers; Winner and Four Regional Honorees from Across the U.S. Praised for Their Excellence in Handling Emergencies.

The second full week in April is traditionally celebrated as National Public Safety Telecommunications Week. In honor of that, the Second Annual Smart Telecommunicator Awards kicked-off last month. All across the U.S., 9-1-1 call-takers and dispatchers (telecommunicators) were nominated by peers and individuals for leadership, performance, compassion for callers, ability to inspire co-workers and overall contributions to their Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). Twelve finalist entries were then selected for an online public vote. Today, Smart911 announced the winners during a press conference held in Newtown, Connecticut, home of this year’s national winner.

Robert Nute of the Newtown Emergency Communications Center in Newtown, Connecticut, was named the national winner for routinely inspiring peers and mentoring newer members of the Emergency Communications Center. In addition to his telecommunicator duties, he is the Center’s communications training officer. On duty during the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, his professionalism and calm demeanor helped emergency responders and his community through the incident. Nute is a true role model, possesses extensive expertise in firefighting and serves as an adjunct instructor of Fire Science at a local community college.

“Bob is an invaluable member of our team here at Newtown and is respected by all of us. I am so thrilled to be able to honor him in this way,” said Maureen Will, director of communications for Newtown. “We all lived through a terrible tragedy together, and Bob’s leadership and dedication helped to facilitate the best possible response.”

The Smart Telecommunicator Awards are conducted by Rave Mobile Safety’s Smart911, the acclaimed national public safety service, in partnership with the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT) and the Denise Amber Lee Foundation.

Four finalists are also being awarded the title of regional honoree, including:

Northeast – Patricia Furdon of the Massachusetts State Police, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, now entering her 33rd year of duty, has personally handled thousands of 9-1-1 calls and currently works at the busiest PSAP in New England. Known for quietly performing her duties with the utmost proficiency, she has been involved in many high-profile emergencies, including the emotional case of an 11 year-old boy and his father being brutally attacked during a home invasion. Her long career has been marked by an unwaveringly high standard of professionalism, work ethic and compassion for callers.

Southeast – Phyllis White of the Orlando Police Department in Orlando, Florida received a 9-1-1 call from a person who said “I’m going to have a seizure!” and then dropped the phone. After calling the service provider for a location of the call, it was determined the address was not valid. She then quickly conducted research yielding an apartment complex, the caller’s name and location, allowing the Fire Department to respond. Her fast-action is credited with likely saving the caller’s life.

Central – Nicole Stricklin of the Saline County Sheriff’s Office in Harrisburg, Illinois, an experienced telecommunicator, found herself on the other end of the phone when her mother suddenly stopped breathing during a visit. After advising her own PSAP of the need for an ambulance, she performed CPR until help arrived. Stricklin’s deft handling of this personal situation saved her mother and won additional praise from her fellow 9-1-1 responders.

Western – Michelle Scherb of the Rice Steele 9-1-1 Center in Owatonna, Minnesota, fielded a call from a hotel clerk help up at gunpoint. Throughout the call, she repeated a series of questions, helping the caller recall more physical characteristics of the suspect, specifics on the weapon used, vehicle and more. Scherb passed the information to responding officers, who located the vehicle and were fired upon by the suspect. Because of the information received, the suspect was located the following morning and taken into custody without incident.

In addition to the Smart Telecommunicator Award, Smart911 will present a donation of $1,000 in Nute’s name to 9-1-1 Cares, a charity of his choosing. Each regional honoree will also receive a $500 donation to charities of their choosing.

“The job of a telecommunicator requires an individual to diffuse emergencies and avert tragedy, while maintaining their composure,” said Tom Axbey, CEO of Rave Mobile Safety. “We were so impressed by all the entries received and congratulate all the winners on their accomplishments.”

Smart911 allows citizens to create a Safety Profile online for their household that includes information they want 9-1-1 and response teams to have during an emergency. When a citizen makes an emergency call, their Safety Profile is automatically displayed to the 9-1-1 call taker, allowing them to send the right response teams to the right location with the right information. Responders can be aware of many details they would not have known previously. As a result, fire crews can arrive at a fire knowing how many people live at the home and the location of bedrooms, EMS can be advised of allergies or specific medical conditions, and police can have the photo of a missing child in seconds rather than minutes or hours.

Introduced nearly three years ago, Smart911 has grown rapidly and is now available in 29 states and more than 350 municipalities. It has been credited with positively impacting emergency situations across the U.S., including a missing child case in Arkansas, and saving lives, such as a heart attack victim in Nashville.

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