Tele-Communicators honored for service to community

When an operation runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, having half of the staff logging perfect attendance for the year gives the business an edge, especially when that business is the Emergency 911 Communications.

Earlier this spring, area law enforcement, fire and rescue officials, 911 Communications board members and community leaders gathered to celebrate National Public Safety Tele-Communicators Week. One of the awards was for perfect attendance, said Jeff Caylor, Blount County Emergency 911 Communications director.

“We honored eight people for perfect attendance. When you’re running a 24/7 operation and almost half of the dispatchers had perfect attendance for the year, that is a huge benefit in terms of continuity,” he said.

Caylor said the April 14 luncheon was a good gathering for his staff. “I’m very proud of the entire staff. At the lunch, we had people from law enforcement and fire departments coming in and honoring them for the special things they did in the year. We’re always proud of them,” he said. “We’re here to support people in the field, and it is gratifying we’re doing a good job for them.”

Day shift dispatcher Marie Strain was honored as Tele-Communicator of the Year.

“Marie was cited for the way she handled a call where she talked someone through CPR,” Caylor said. “The Blount County Sheriff’s Office also honored her, Chuck Lewis and David Burton for the team work they did on an injured-person call, where a 3-year-old boy got kicked in the head by a horse.”

Caylor said Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp honored dispatchers Sonja Smith and Matt Graves for their work in talking a man into surrendering following a shooting call at a house on Court Street near Maryville College several months ago. “The suspect gave himself up, and they talked him out of the house,” Caylor said. “He (the shooter) called 911, and they told him what to do and to keep his hands in the air.”

The director said dispatcher Heather Murphy was honored by the Blount County Sheriff’s Office. “Back last fall, a family up near Top of the World was lost and having car trouble. Through the GPS on their phone, Heather Murphy pinpointed a location for them where an officer found them,” Caylor said. “It was cold enough at the time that there was a concern that if they hadn’t found them, it could’ve been a dangerous situation.”

Dispatchers Murphy and Crystal Greene were honored for their work in the spring of 2010 when the Nashville area got hit with flooding. “They’re members of the Tele-Communicators Emergency Response Team, and they went to Cheatham County and provided dispatch services for three or four days with other TERT members from across the state working 12-hour shifts.”

Caylor said perfect attendance awards were given to Donna Burnette, Matt Graves, Crystal Greene, Richee Kidd, David Nelson, Heather Patterson, Marie Strain and Sherry Tipton.

“We also had three service awards honoring Chuck Lewis and Sherry Tipton for 10 years of service each and Sonja Smith for 20 years,” Caylor said.

The 911 director said quality assurance awards also were given. “We do quality assurance awards based on call handling,” he said. “Heather Murphy scored tops for the entire year in law enforcement. For medical, Heather Murphy, Scott Gregory and Ja-Nett Barbson were honored.”

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