When a police officer goes out on the street or into a house, a dispatcher is his or her life-line.
It's also dispatchers who warn firefighters about what to expect as they respond to a call and update them on the whereabouts of their colleagues or how long they've battled a blaze.The voices on the radio were honored last week at a luncheon for those who work in police and fire communications.
The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International presented eight awards to individuals and teams of dispatchers and administrators Thursday at the end of the group's two-day training conference.
One of the most high-profile awards, Incident of the Year, went to three Davis County sheriff's dispatchers.
While most people were heading to lunch Feb. 4, Jerri Eggett, Korilyn Jensen and Karen Wolf were coordinating the response to one of the most frightening incidents police have dealt with this year.
It was 12:11 p.m. when someone called the dispatch center and said a student at Syracuse Junior High had taken students hostage in the school's lunch room. The caller said the student had a gun and shots had been fired.
In the next 32 minutes, the three women coordinated police responses from three police agencies in two counties. They directed officers and ambulances as to where they should stage and what was going on inside - information they gleaned from students who called police after running from the school.
When the amount of radio traffic couldn't be handled on normal stations, the women switched everyone to a single statewide channel where everyone had access to each other and the same information.
"Working as a team, these three dispatchers provided the central focus for a number of law enforcement, medical and public service agencies that were ultimately needed to bring this crisis to a successful conclusion," said Davis County Sheriff Robert S. Davis in a letter nominating the women for the award.
A 14-year-old student was arrested as he tried to get away from police with two hostages.
Other awards given were:
Dispatcher of the Year, Dee Bird, Davis County Sheriff's Office; Supervisor of the Year, Marita Haddan, Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office; Administrators of the Year, Carol J. Groustra, Communications Bureau Chief, Utah Department of Public Safety and Earl R. Morris, director of Public Safety's Criminal Investigations and Technical Services Division; Technician of the Year, Derol Simkins, Division of Information Technology Services, Utah Department of Administrative Services; Executive Award of Merit, Wendy Lister, Communications Bureau, Utah Department of Public Safety; Unit Citation, fire dispatchers and supervisors for the Salt Lake City Fire Department; Distinguished Service Award, Kristin Campbell, Price Consolidated Communications Center, Utah Department of Public Safety.