Blount Emergency 911 honors Dunn as Telecommunicator of the Year

When Susie Dunn hears a complaint about not having enough work space, she has to laugh. The dispatcher has come a long way since she started working at the Blount County Sheriff’s office 25 years ago.

"I sat on a medicine box in the jail and listened to another officer dispatch, and, on the third day, I was on my own and didn’t have a clue," she said with a laugh.

Blount County had such a small population then and had so few deputies, when nature called, the deputies understood. "If you had to use the bathroom, you said, ‘Hold your (radio) traffic’ and everyone understood."

Dunn recently was honored as telecommunicator of the year at the Blount County Emergency 911 Center. The personnel of the Blount County Emergency 911 Center were honored during National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week, April 8 -14.

The luncheon at the Louisville Road facility highlighted the contributions of telecommunicators, also known as dispatchers. Maryville and Alcoa police department officials were on hand, as was Blount County General Sessions Judge Bill Brewer. Brewer is chair of the 911 Board and Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp is the secretary.

"We appreciate what you do," said Maryville Chief Tony Crisp.

Holly Hatcher, community policing officer with Alcoa Police Department passed on Chief Ken Burge’s regards. "Chief Burge wanted you to know how much he appreciates you," she said. "Without you, our jobs wouldn’t be what they are."

Emergency 911 Communications director Jeff Caylor recognized dispatcher Chuck Lewis for his efforts after he saved the life of a woman who was choking at a restaurant where he and his wife were eating. "It doesn’t bother us at all when our people go out and do something like this," Caylor said of Lewis’ heroic actions.

Caylor also recognized TERT, the telecommunicators emergency response team unit. "This is one of our newest units started in January," he said. TERT personnel are veteran telecommunicators who have been specially trained to respond to critical incidents and dispatch from the scene. This helps lighten the load for the dispatchers at the 911 Center and helps emergency responders keep track of who is at a scene.

TERT personnel worked with the Blount County Fire Department during the blaze that destroyed a Friendsville home and left four children dead. They have also completed several training exercises and fire departments are very excited about the unit, Caylor said.

"Donna Overstreet (assistant director) has overseen it. We’ve had tremendous response. It’s getting better and better," Caylor said. "They’ve put in a lot of work and dedication."

Other personnel were recognized for their time on the job and for their attendance. Kevin Haggerty was honored for five years of service. David Burton was honored for his 10 years of service. Donna Burnette was honored for her perfect attendance this year.

Caylor said in giving the Telecommunicator of the Year award, one of the strengths of the dispatchers is that they work together well. "No one person does everything," he said.

"They go above and beyond routine to make the organization better. They help in training, setting up training and they do it because they know it needs to be done," he said. "Our telecommunicator of the year embodies this theory."

Dunn, a supervisor who helped spearhead TERT, appeared shocked by the announcement. "This is very surprising. I like doing everything I do. I don’t do everything well, but I enjoy it," she said.

After the reception was over, she talked about her job and how much she appreciates her colleagues. "They do their job and they do it well," she said.

Often people calling in do not understand or appreciate what the staff does. They think that because they’re calling 911 from Maryville, they’re getting a Maryville police officer, she said . The 911 Center dispatches for all law enforcement, fire and emergency responders in Blount County.

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