In recognition of the intense effort involved in handling the emergency radio telecommunications traffic that stemmed from the December 14 mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Newtown Emergency Communications Center at Town Hall South has received an Outstanding 9-1-1 Call Center Award.
Sharing the award with Newtown was a similar emergency communications center for Aurora, Colorado, where a mass shooting incident occurred in a movie theater last July 20.
The Next Generation 9-1-1 Institute and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) jointly issued the awards to Newtown and Aurora on March 19 in Washington, DC.
Maureen Will, Newtown’s emergency communications director, accepted the award on behalf of Newtown.
Newtown was nominated for the award by Jeffrey Vannais, who is the East Hartford Police Department’s communications supervisor, and also was nominated by the Smart911 information system.
The dispatch center at Town Hall South handles all local 911 calls, as well routine calls for police, fire, and ambulance service.
Generally known as The 9-1-1 Honors, Ms Will said of the awards event, “It was a great honor. It was extremely humbling.”
“Sometimes people forget us (dispatchers) because we are tucked away,” Ms Will said, noting that while dispatchers are involved in handling emergency incidents, they do not travel to those incidents, as do police, firefighters, and ambulance staffers.
“A lot of lessons were learned” by dispatchers who handled the radio traffic stemming from the 12/14 incident, Ms Will said.
To aid them with all the calls that they handled, local dispatchers were helped by members of a Telecommunications Emergency Response Team (TERT), Ms Will said.
So that the Newtown Emergency Communications Center can aid other dispatch center in need of mutual aid assistance in the future, three local dispatchers have become certified as TERT members. They are Tom Ramsdell, Bob Nute, and Jamie Nisbet.
Town police, fire, and ambulance crews have similar mutual aid agreements so that members of those agencies can help similar agencies in other towns, when needed.
When the 12/14 shooting incident occurred, Ms Will, Mr Nute, and Jennifer Barocsi were on duty in the local dispatch center
In a statement, US Sen. Blumenthal said, “Newtown emergency call center dispatchers — like other first responders — well deserve this great recognition for their immense bravery and strength in the face of unspeakable tragedy. No other emergency call center is more deserving. They provided endless comfort, care, and courage to the families and community so deeply hurt.”
US Representative Esty said, “On the darkest of days and in the most difficult of circumstances, Newtown’s dispatchers displayed the professionalism and commitment to community that is the core of emergency services,” she said.
“Their expertise, preparedness, sound judgment, and quick action to mobilize police, firefighters, and medical personnel made a difference. I’m incredibly pleased that they are being recognized for performing above and beyond the call of duty on that terrible day and on the days and weeks that followed,” Rep Esty said.