10 Days and Two Babies
April 21, 2022
Dispatch in Action
Over-the-phone baby deliveries are not common events at the Cambria County 911 Communications Center, Pennsylvania (USA), and two births in the space of 10 days is like hitting the emergency dispatch wheel of fortune.
“There’s probably been fewer than 10 births in the 25 years I’ve been here,” said Joan Villa, Quality Assurance Supervisor. “And three of them were mine.”
No amount of time erases the memory, and despite the multiple births under her belt, Villa praised the two emergency dispatchers—Anna Rogers and Samantha Bees—and not only for their composure. The situations were not run-of-the-mill. “It takes special people to do what they did,” she said.
On Jan. 13, 2022, Bees was greeted by a frightened caller. Her baby was on the way. “She was alone, except for her three-year-old son, and sitting on the toilet,” Bees said. "She was screaming, and when I asked if she could feel any part of baby now, she said she was scared.”
Bees reassured the woman and told her it was crucial to listen to the instructions while awaiting help on scene. Bees told her to leave the bathroom and lie down. The woman was frightened, and again, Bees reassured her. "I told her she wasn’t alone. I was there to help.”
Nine minutes into the call, the baby arrived. The mother, probably every bit exhausted as relieved, followed instructions to wrap the baby. “She couldn’t believe what she had done alone,” Bees said. “I told her she did a great job.”
Paramedics later called in. Mom wanted to thank Bees. Mom and baby were doing well.
Ten days later on Jan. 23, 2022, the second baby was about to arrive to a woman alone on her front porch, screaming for help. She didn’t have a phone and as luck would have it, a neighbor happened by and called 911 from his phone.
Chris Fedora, a trainee working with Rogers, got the pertinent information—name, address, and what was happening. The woman was having contractions. Her water broke. Rogers got on the line to bring delivery to the finish line.
Rogers told the caller to bring the woman into the house and have her lie down. He got towels. “He saw the head,” Rogers said. “He coached her, told her ‘We can do this.’” Ten minutes into the call he said, “I got him, the baby came out,” assuring Rogers of the baby’s safe delivery. He tied off the umbilical cord using a lace from his shoe. Paramedics arrived, and he excused himself to wait outside.
For Rogers, this was a first delivery over the phone and, undoubtedly, the same can be said for the neighbor. “He was a little shaken at the start,” she said. But it didn’t take long for him to ease into the day’s turn of events. “Anna was right there,” Villa said. “She had total control of the call and gave him every instruction he needed to handle the birth.”
Rogers turned her appreciation to the caller. “They had never met before,” she said. “He was great. Respectful and sincere.”
Bees and Rogers said the unexpected events tether them to emergency dispatch. Rogers waited tables for 16 years and, finally, made the move to a job where she could help people. “Now, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” she said. Likewise for Bees, who started in dispatch three years ago after earning a degree in biology pre-med. “No day is ever the same. I’m here to stay.”
Villa said extra training is the norm for the less common calls, such as childbirth. She emphasizes the importance of customer service, which shined during the two recent calls. “They both used the right words to help,” she said. “They calmed the caller. They did an outstanding job.”
The center’s 28 full-time emergency dispatchers handle an average annual call volume of 171,000 calls using the medical, fire, and police protocols.