911 Board Public Safety Communications Awards

By Bradford Times Staff

The Simcoe County 9-1-1 Management Board Public Safety Communications Award winners were recognized at a ceremony, held April 13 at the Simcoe County Museum, honouring the “unsung but essential” call-takers, dispatchers and supervisors in the emergency response system – the men and women who provide a vital link to callers in distress.

“They are the lifeline for people who call 9-1-1. They are also the safety net for our first responders,” said Cathy Clark, co-chair of the Simcoe County 9-1-1 Management Board.

The 2016 Youth Award was presented to 10-year-old Ravyn Rideout of Barrie, who was at home with her grandmother on February 19, 2016, when the grandmother had difficulty breathing. Ravyn called 9-1-1 and remained calm and attentive to the communicator's questions and recommendations, showing great compassion.

Receiving her award, she was joined on the podium by call-taker Taryn Careri, who nominated her for her actions, and Paramedic Maggie Potter, who responded to the call. In the audience were Ravyn's mother, and grandmother.

The 2016 Simcoe County Public Safety Communications Joint Team Award  was presented to Barrie Police Service call-taker Melissa Nadeau, dispatchers Tonya Kennedy, Christine Atkinson and Dana Forrest, and Communications Supervisor Shirley Dunn, who co-ordinated the successful search for a man who had fallen into icy water on November 11, 2016. The man, struggling in the water beneath a bridge, was only able to provide a vague description of his location. Using their knowledge of  the City of Barrie, and triangulation using police sirens,  the communications team was able to guide emergency responders to the man's location within 30 minutes – saving his life.

Three teams were recognized in the Team Recognition category: Barrie Fire & Emergency Service for their response to last year's major ice storm, Georgian Central Ambulance Communications Centre for coping with a system outage caused by the same ice storm; and the South Simcoe Police team, for their response to an acutely distraught caller.

On January 2, 2016, at approximately 5 a.m., South Simcoe Police Communications received a report of a male, who appeared to be in crisis, standing on the County Rd. 88 overpass at Hwy. 400. While the call-taker collected as much information as possible, the dispatcher began sending units to the scene, co-ordinating with Paramedics, and with the OPP to shut down the southbound 400.

Two hours into the incident, there was a shift change – but the response continued seamlessly, bringing inYork Regional Police, the Emergency Response Unit, and a negotiator, all while handling regular calls for service and media inquiries. Every possibility was taken into consideration; after 4 hours, the male was transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The South Simcoe Police team of Sandra Santos, Jenn Columbus, Robyn Bodnaryk, Holleigh Vella, Samantha Armstrong and Kirsty Tamaki were recognized for their exemplary work.

“Over the last 10 years, we have had the pleasure of honouring these steadfast individuals and the incredible work they do under challenging and sometimes devastating conditions,” said Simcoe County Warden Gerry Marshall. “I know I speak for all Simcoe County residents when I say we are truly grateful to all public safety communicators for offering a calm, understanding and supportive voice in what is often in the hardest moment in someone's life.”

Since its inception, the awards have recognized 6 Communicators of the Year, 238 individual/team communicators, and 9 Youth.

“They do not go out there looking for praise, looking for glory, looking for fame,” said Simcoe County Paramedic Chief Andrew Robert. “These call-takers, most of the people they talk to are having the worse day ever,” and appreciate “the professionalism,  calm and dedication of communicators.”