The 2016 PSCA (Public Safety Communications Association) Dispatch Appreciation Banquet was held Friday night, April 8, at the Visalia Elks Lodge. Set to coincide with the annual National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, local 9-1-1 agencies gather each year to recognize each agency’s Dispatcher(s) of the Year.
Hosted each year by a different PSCA agency in the Central Valley, this year’s banquet and awards event was put on by the Visalia Police and Fire Departments. The annual event has a theme, and this year’s was “Speakeasy”. Attendees were in their finest 20’s style attire, and had to give the “password” at the door. (they didn’t seem too strict on what the actual word was, however!)
After a catered dinner, which was delicious (no rubber chicken here!), each department presented it’s chosen dispatcher(s) with a plaque and an introduction to the assembled audience. Between the presentations, raffle and door prizes were awarded, and a silent auction of donated “baskets” was held.
A career as a 9-1-1 dispatcher takes a certain kind of person. Not everyone can handle the stress and demands of the job. Many police officers will tell you they could never handle being a dispatcher, they’d much rather be in the field dealing with criminals! From individuals who have been behind the microphones and computer screens for only a short time, to seasoned veterans who have decades of experience, each brings a special talent to their centers. Friday night’s event was a moment to recognize what is often a thankless and unseen, but absolutely essential, link in the public safety response system.
Police officers, Deputies, Firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians, and Paramedics are often referred to as “first responders”. While they are first on the scene, the dispatchers are the “first, first responders”. They are the ones that pick up that panicked 9-1-1 call, get the information needed, and get the help rolling to the scene. Often the callers don’t know where they are, or how to explain what the emergency is. It’s the dispatcher’s job to gather information quickly and accurately, get emergency response units rolling, and continue to monitor several other events at the same time.
Each year’s banquet is a chance to recognize the actions of dispatchers across the valley, who are “just doing the job”, but provide an essential service to first responders, and to the public they all serve.
Visalia Police and Fire Department’s Dispatcher of the Year is Alaina Pena.
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office DOTY is Matthew Allen.
American Ambulance: Benjamin Mooneyham, Cody Petrie, and Jackie Lopez.
Madera Police Department: Jolene Wyatt.
California Highway Patrol: Laura Herrera.
Clovis Police Department: Danielle Beltran.
Coalinga Police Department: Holly Henderson.
Fresno County Sheriff’s Office: LaShell Aldredge.
Fresno Police Department: Mague Elena Toles.
Hanford Police Department: Dana Quandt.
Huron Police Department: Lorena Lopez.
Reedley Police Department: Pamela Alvarez, Ashley Dupras, and Christy Munoz.
Porterville Police Department: Michelle Hughbanks.
Tulare Police Department: Glen Neunzig.
Selma Police Department: Kendra Steffen, Silvana Ponce, and Martha Martinez.
Drawn from all walks of life, all sectors of the community, and each with their own special talents, the dispatch community serves as that first critical link in the public safety chain. Friday was their night. Congratulations to the winners, and to the teams of which they are a part, and to their agencies.
Disclaimer: This article is not an official release by any of the agencies involved, or PSCA. The author is a 9-1-1 dispatcher who attended the banquet, and remarks made here are mine alone.
Image: Some of the 2016 PSCA Dispatch Appreciation Banquet winners.