A Wrap-Around Porch

Audrey Fraizer

Audrey Fraizer

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Audrey Fraizer

Stacie Rosedale imagines a neighborhood and home where she can lounge on a wrap-around porch sipping lemonade. Children and grandchildren play in the large yard shaded by oak draped in Spanish moss and maybe a family dog chases a squirrel.

The scene is not a far cry from reality.

The emergency dispatcher for the East Hartford Public Safety Communications Center (Connecticut, USA) has found the city of her dreams—Savannah, Georgia (USA)—and a style of home to accommodate her children and the children she plans to foster during the second phase of her life.

The problem? Rosedale has to retire. She has to leave the profession and the co-workers she calls “family” after 30 years of answering 911 calls and sending response.

This won’t be easy, admitted Rosedale, who in 1989 was selected an ideal candidate for emergency communications based on the then-mandated East Hartford employment test. She went to records instead but within a year switched to dispatch where she has stayed since.

“This career has made me what I am today,” Rosedale said. “But I’m kind of like the last dinosaur in 911. Even the police officers starting at the same time are retiring.”

A recent call that might cement her departure was one Rosedale had hoped to avoid when she was a relative newcomer. The words “my wife’s having a baby” were not something she wanted to hear despite the step-by-step childbirth and delivery PAIs available in the MPDS® cardset the center used at the time.

Confidence accumulated over thousands of calls—and advancements in protocol—however, convinced Rosedale that a major speaking part in a baby’s arrival was the 911 swansong she needed to bid her farewell. Rosedale followed the instructions on ProQA®, convinced dad that “Yes, you can do this,” and had a baby waiting when medics arrived.

Meeting family and holding the infant was icing on the cake. It was the first time she met anyone she had assisted through 911.

“Everything went beautifully,” Rosedale said. “The visit was arranged during National Telecommunicators Week. It was wonderful. I am ready to retire.”

Of course, calls didn’t always go so well. Two extremely difficult calls six months a part in 1999 almost put a premature end to Rosedale’s career. She doesn’t like to talk about the calls, except to say one involved a line of duty death of a police officer and the other a family murder-suicide.

“When things like this happen, you realize the gravity of what we do,” she said. “It takes hold, and your thinking is never the same after that. We are truly a part of life and death.”

Turn the pages back and Rosedale remembers a job less complicated or, at least, a job emergency dispatchers learned gradually as 911 technology improved. The 14 emergency dispatchers worked in a double-wide trailer behind the East Hartford Police Station, which still manages communications. Mobile phones were the exception, not the rule, and hanging up on a call was at the discretion of the emergency dispatcher. They had CAD and two screens at each station.

The center has moved twice over the past 30 years and now part of the East Hartford Public Safety Complex. The 20 emergency dispatchers use ProQA. Text messaging, photo and video transmission, and VoIP capability is anticipated through the state’s full implementation of an NG911 network.

Technology is not high on a list Rosedale will ponder fondly over a glass of lemonade in retirement.

“Dispatching has become much more intricate,” she said. “There is so much we do and have to know. People coming in now have six months to learn what I did in 30 years.”

The East Hartford Public Safety Communications Center receives and responds to calls for police, fire, and medical services. They answer an average of 30,000 911 calls each year, with more than three-quarters coming in via cellphones.