DISPATCHER OF THE YEAR
June 7, 2013
By Audrey Fraizer
John Clark “JC” Ferguson received the Dispatcher of the Year Award at NAVIGATOR 2013 for the reasons listed on the IAED nomination form: compliance to protocol, teamwork, initiative to further professionalism and education, and the ability to work well under stress.
There’s also that one requirement posted further down in the selection criteria: a supporting audio file involving a difficult caller, extraordinary circumstance, or positive outcome. As anyone listening to the audio file of Ferguson can say, whoever nominated him certainly knew a remarkable call when he or she heard one.
Hysterics greeted the 9-1-1 dispatcher. The woman on the other end of the line was obviously panicked, but in short, irregular bursts she was able to explain her emergency well enough for Ferguson to understand. Her significant other had shot himself inside a locked closet.
“I can’t get in,” she cried.
Ferguson tells the caller to push open the locked closet, a request the woman initially declines because, as the audio file clearly indicates, she is scared, distraught, and dubious of what she will find. Ferguson persists in a calm and assertive voice.
“I will stay on the line as long as you need me,” he tells her.
Hesitantly though successfully, she manages to get inside the closet only to find her significant other bleeding severely from the self-inflicted wound. He is breathing. He is not conscious.
A local police officer is the first responder to arrive on scene, entering the house through an unlocked door. The caller hands the phone to the officer, who lifts the man from out of the closet to lay straight on a hard surface, and Ferguson provides Pre-Arrival Instructions to control bleeding. Since the victim is breathing, CPR is not administered although the officer follows instructions for opening the man’s airway.
The call ends with the victim in the hands of paramedics. Ferguson never does find out about the man’s condition—whether he survived or died from the gunshot wound. He disconnects and goes on to the next call.
The exceptional care he provides is the hallmark of the call—and his job performance, in general—said IAED Associate Director Carlynn Page, who presented the Dispatcher of the Year Award during the Opening Session on Wednesday, April 17.
“His significant actions to get help for the victim exemplifies the mission of the Academy,” she said.
Ferguson looked a little overwhelmed by the award during his approach to the stage. He is dressed in his center’s “Class-A” uniform, and his wife Erin Patterson, a disaster emergency case manager, follows to take photos. He accepts the award—a clear globe on a silver pedestal—nods his appreciation, and leaves the stage.
Later, after the Opening Session, Ferguson admits that emergency dispatch was not his first choice for a profession. He was an EMT while working on his psychology degree from North Carolina State University. He graduated and accepted a position in civil engineering in Austin, where he grew up. It wasn’t for him. He applied for an opening at the Austin-Travis County EMS communications center.
“It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was in the area of what I hoped to do,” he said. “It really turned out much better than I thought it would.”
Ferguson is into his third year in emergency communications. He finds the center environment “positive,” and the profession fits his personality. He enjoys learning new technology and coordinating response from the mix of phone types used to place calls. Ferguson has provided Pre-Arrival Instructions to help deliver babies and in an effort to help a bystander administer CPR.
“It comes naturally to me to quickly understand what a person needs in the non-visual environment,” he said. “I guess I also have the compassion it takes to do this.”