This week we say good bye to our friend AZ who is retiring after 31 years as an Emergency Communications Operator with the Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications. In 1984, AZ was a Reserve Police Officer with the City of Portland. Every patrol shift she worked she found herself wondering about the rather magical and knowledgeable voices on the other side of the radio. During a visit to the Kelly Butte Bunker, which was home to BOEC at the time, AZ was awestruck by the operations floor, the technology reminded her of NASA ground control! She was hooked and knew she had to apply for a job! Now 31 years, three CAD (computer aided dispatch) systems, the birth and development of enhanced 9-1-1, 800 Megahertz radio systems, multitudes of technological advances, and the countless policy changes later, AZ will leave BOEC this week for the last time. We are all saddened as we will miss her face, her laugh, her skills and abilities and the integral role she plays as part of the BOEC Team.
Dispatching for our law enforcement agencies has been AZ’s passion. In her own words, she prefers guns to hoses! One of her favorite nights was in the 1990’s, still a rookie dispatcher, assigned to North Portland Police radio channel. A call regarding the theft of 6 brand new SUV’s from a loading dock in north Portland came in. PPB began searching the area and located each one of those vehicles. Each one was occupied and each occupant decided they would like to make a run for it! Six pursuits, back to back! That made for a high adrenaline night!
One thing we will truly miss is having AZ as a coach for employees. Given her tenure, we’re pretty sure that she’s sat next to every certified employee as their full time coach or a back-up coach, including the supervisors. Since 2002, AZ has submitted over 1,000 DORS (daily operation reports) recording trainee’ daily progress. This doesn’t include all of the DORs she wrote before we started keeping records electronically. AZ has contributed to countless training simulations, hosted sit-alongs for new employees, given feedback/suggestions to other coaches, and assisted with training in more ways than we could possibly detail. We heard her encouraging more than one trainee by saying “It’s ok! You’ll get it the next time.” AZ’s persistent belief in others was just one of the ways she contributed to a positive learning environment.
AZ’s advice for new employees - 911 calls are hard to take, this job is not for the faint of heart and you have to be tough as nails! Call takers must process difficult information quickly to get the right help to the right place. It takes extreme teamwork to get this job done efficiently. To mentally and physically survive, people must realize quickly that they cannot take the stress home with them, or dwell on the devastating incidents that they are exposed to during each shift they work. Take care of yourself.
When you have a really great call, it stays with you for a while. One of AZ’s favorite calls came in on a graveyard shift. A frantic, soon to be daddy called 9-1-1. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to get his pregnant wife to the hospital in time. AZ began guiding that daddy with pre-arrival instructions and talked him through the delivery of his child. Hearing that baby cry over the phone was music to everyone’s ears!
This week as she retires from a job she truly loves, I asked AZ what’s next on her dance card. Aside from sleeping in and enjoying life, she’s not quite sure yet. Maybe a European vacation someday, and definitely time with her daughter! She is still having a hard time really grasping that she is retired!
We want to wish AZ the very best in her next chapter. You are a valued employee, co-worker and friend,– you will be greatly missed. Best wishes AZ
And in closing - In her own words. . .So, as I sign off I want to give a big shout out to my wonderful co-workers, you are the hardest working, kindest, supportive, talented, caring, charitable people I know and I will miss you all so much. And to all the emergency responders who risk their lives for us daily, stay safe out there, watch your six. Love to you all. AZ #18241 is 10-79.