Three Montgomery County employees who answer 911 calls and dispatch first responders were recognized this week for their work.
The second full week of April each year is designated across the U.S. as National Public Safety Telecommunications Week to recognize the public safety communications specialists who speak with callers in emergency situations. Montgomery County police called them the "first of the first responders."
Danielle Prince, who trains other telecommunicators, was nominated for Communications Training Officer of the Year at a ceremony for the regional chapter of the Associations of Public-Safety Communications Officials on Thursday. Prince has worked in emergency services for more than five years and had always had the goal of training others to do the same job.
"They kind of call me a cheerleader," Prince said, describing her work as a trainer. "I sit with my trainee, and I don't talk. I just listen."
Prince said that when she trains other dispatchers, she stresses the importance of remaining calm and notifying first responders right away about changes in the emergency situation, such as the presence of drugs or weapons. Those changes can affect the safety of the first responders.
"To do this job, you have to be a certain type of calm," Prince said. "It's easy to get upset and take on the emotions of the caller, and a lot of times the officers. ... And it's up to you to kind of bring them back down."
In general, Prince said she found the job rewarding because she could help callers just by listening to their concerns.
"I like helping people help themselves, because a lot of times, people call with situations that they basically know the answer to, but they're basically looking for confirmation," Prince said.
At the same ceremony where Prince was recognized, Montgomery County's Chanel Gary also was nominated for a Telecommunicator of the Year award.
Public-safety communications specialist Kristen Torre received the annual Cluster Magnet Award on Saturday from an organization recognizing the work of emergency telecommunicators from Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.