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A thanks to those that save lives behind the scenes

POSTED: May 8, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Patty Leon / Coastal Courier/

Della Brewton enjoys a plate of southern food catered by Paul Deen's "The Lady and Sons" restaurant in Savannah during Liberty County's Public Safety Telecommunication appreciation dinner held April 16. PSC Director, Tom Wahl says he celebrates the annual event with dinner for his employees as a way of giving thanks for the other 364 days they work hard in saving lives in the community.

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National Public Safety Telecommunications Week is when people from all over the public safety field and beyond express appreciation for the people who make telecommunications work.
The week, marked here last week, was started by Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials member Patricia Anderson in 1981 in Contra Costa, Calif., and has grown into a national celebration. The second full week of April was proclaimed National Public Safety Telecommunications Week by Congress in 1991.
In Liberty County a resolution was passed to celebrate it at the local level and Liberty County's Public Safety Communications Director Tom Wahl has done so four of the past five years he's been here.
"Basically we are telling our folks how much we appreciate the work they do for us," he said. "The hours they work, the weekends and holidays and birthdays where they are here instead of celebrating with their families. We are given them thanks for the job they do."
One year, Wahl had cheese steak sandwiches flown in from Philadelphia and has used local restaurants in the past. For the past two years he has settled for the worker's all-time favorite.
"For the last two years the food has been catered from Paula Deen's "The Lady and Sons," restaurant in Savannah," he said. "I try and do this every year to tell them thanks for the other 364 days."
Pamela Strickland, shift supervisor and 13-year employee, said she is grateful for the yearly appreciation dinner.
"It feels great that he does for us," she said. "We may not give him as much credit as he deserves because he really does look out for us. There has been a big change since he has been here and he has done a lot of good things for us."
"I think he does it because if he didn't do something for us we would harass him to death," Della Brewton, telecommunications supervisor, joked.
The crowd began to gather and plate up their meal. They sat around to discuss their families and friends, and took a moment to reflect on the importance of their work.
"Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad," Strickland said of her 12-hour shifts.
"I love my position," Brewton said. "This job gives you so much satisfaction because you are helping people. The police officers the fire department and EMS they are quickly recognized. But, when you think about it, we are the first line to these responders. Without us they don't get the right type of help dispatched in a timely manner. People have the misconception that all we do is answer phones. But our job is so multifaceted including dealing with other agencies like DFACS, Animal Control, FCC and sometimes the FAA. I don't think I could be happy doing anything other then what I'm doing now."
"I don't do my job for the pats on the back," Amy Chambers, shift supervisor and 14-year employee, said. "It's nice when it happens but we don't do it for that so it doesn't really matter. The food however, is great. We appreciate a good meal."
Chambers said the job requires a mental focus and stamina as you try and balance the delicate nature of life and death, help or sorrow.
"Numerous times we would get folks who really didn't understand the mental aspect this job entails," she said. "They would leave shortly after starting. We don't fault them for it because we know up front that it's not for everybody and you don't know that until you try. This job is definitely not for everyone. It's not a job that everybody can do or even would want to do."
Brewton said it's like having an extended family and that makes it easier to deal with on those birthdays and holidays spent at work.
Chambers said the advanced technology has helped as well.
"The technology now versus when I started is an extremely vast improvement," she said. "We used to write everything down on cards and log books. Now we have the CAD system and that has been upgraded twice since I've been here."
 

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