Mike Rigert

Mike Rigert

Story Vault

By Mike Rigert

At age six, most children can barely tie their shoes let alone recite their home address or write in cursive.

But that didn’t stop a 6-year-old Maryland boy from dialing 9-1-1 on Aug. 28, 2013, when his mother suffered a seizure while preparing a family meal. Kenny Watson’s quick thinking helped him connect with EMD Roberto Ramirez, a calltaker with Prince George’s County (Md.) Public Safety Communications who directed first responders to the boy’s unconscious mother.

“Most of the time, the young callers we get are pranksters,” said Ramirez, Watson’s lifeline to assistance. “But I just heard in his voice that he wasn’t joking. I thought ‘He’s for real.’”

Though Kenny couldn’t recall his home phone number, he knew his address, which he relayed to Ramirez. Meanwhile, Ramirez asked him Case Entry questions while simultaneously reassuring Kenny that he would stay on the line with him and that help was on the way.

“I looked at the prior calls and saw that Kenny had called 9-1-1 twice before,” Ramirez said. “He was good and calm the whole time. He was like, ‘Yeah, I got this.’”

Ramirez had Kenny confirm that his mother wasn’t having multiple seizures, that she was breathing, and that she was lying in a comfortable position. He also provided instructions should Watson’s mother regain consciousness.

During the call, Ramirez told Kenny, “You’re doing a good job at this,” and “You’re a pro,” to which the boy responded, “I know. I do this all the time.”

Fire and emergency medical responders arrived at the home within minutes, evaluated Kenny’s 30-year-old mother, and transported her to nearby Fort Washington Hospital for further care.

Ramirez, formerly a volunteer firefighter in New Jersey, has only been an calltaker with the Prince George’s center for 2 ½ years. But it’s calls like Kenny’s, he says, that remind him why he started a career in emergency dispatch.

“I look back, and this is why I do my job and why I love it,” Ramirez said.

The call was unusual enough that it has attracted attention from the local news media, including at least one TV news station. When teased about Kenny’s call making him something of a celebrity in the community, Ramirez shrugged it off as falling back on his training.

“I’m just excited to meet Kenny and tell him he did a good job and that he’ll be able to take care of his mom in the future,” Ramirez said. “I felt pretty good.”

Prince George’s County Public Safety Communications covers a service area of more than 870,000 residents. In 2012, it responded to more than 1.4 million calls for service.