NPSTW Showcase

Cynthia Murray

Cynthia Murray

Web Exclusives

In anticipation of celebrating National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (NPSTW), our Journal of Emergency Dispatch staff invited IAED members to submit original creations that celebrate the “Heart of Dispatch.” 

The response revealed an impressive display of creativity, emotion, passion, and varied talents from the emergency dispatch community. We are delighted to share select entries both in this article and through our social media showcase. Featured here are some of our highlighted entries in the categories of written submissions, artistic creations, and film/videography.

“It Goes On” Poem by Paul Miller

Alpharetta Department of Public Safety, Georgia (USA)

Communications Supervisor Paul Miller dabbled in poetry for years, but he had experienced a creative hiatus for some time until he wrote his poem “It Goes On,” highlighted in our NPSTW showcase.

Miller felt the desire to write after he had observed his co-worker handling a traumatic call. Though her emotions were visibly felt, she brushed them off while preparing to pick up the next call.

“The first few lines just came to me,” Miller said, surprised to have his thoughts flow freely and completely in one sitting. He concluded his poem with the line, “It goes on” as an expression of the continuation expected amid heartache.

During his 16 years serving in the Alpharetta Department of Public Safety, Miller has come to intimately know the impact of traumatic exposure as part of the emergency dispatch profession.

“The job can sometimes get to you when you don’t have time to decompress,” he said. “My poem is a representation of those moments and the resilience required of the dispatcher.”

Like many emergency dispatchers, Miller finds that traumatic calls are the ones he thinks about late at night. “There isn’t any closure most of the time,” he said. “It feels so helpless just talking on the phone.”

Though he felt happy with the expression in his poem, he didn’t share it with anyone until this opportunity for honoring, celebrating, and recognizing emergency dispatchers. His hope is that other emergency dispatchers will be able to relate to the feelings conveyed in his imagery, while others might experience empathy for the weight emergency dispatchers carry. 

“Paint the Plow” Mural by Nikki Derdall

Metro Communications, South Dakota (USA)


Communications Operator Nikki Derdall was excited when her Interim Director, Mike Gramlick, asked her to design an image to represent public safety in the Sioux Falls’ annual community event, “Paint the Plow.” Her comm. center of over five years, Metro Communications, had never participated in the event where artists fill the city’s snowplows with original murals for the community to view.

Derdall drafted the design while referencing photos of their Sioux Falls police and fire departments, researching their badges, uniforms, and colors of firefighter helmets to pattern her mural with accuracy. However, she made an intentional artistic choice not to include faces.

“I wanted the figures to represent every responder we have and have had,” Derdall said. “I used a skyline of Sioux Falls and drew two snowplows to recognize our street department. The final touch was to add a thin gold line in the background as a bright focal point to the Emergency Dispatchers behind the scenes who bring it all together.”

Once her design was approved, Derdall eagerly asked her co-workers for help in bringing her image to life. Her team was comprised of four additional artists: Emergency Dispatcher Haley Erickson; Firefighter Cadet Jordan Deboer; Deboer’s girlfriend, Katie Wipf; and Derdall’s wife, Jessica Derdall.

Using a projector, Derdall stenciled the outline of the design onto the plow before bringing in the rest of the crew. Together, they invested about 20 hours of their personal time over a span of five days, mainly painting the afternoons away, staying after hours when needed.

Aside from enduring a bit of back pain from crouching down, the team enjoyed creating the honorary piece together as a celebration of the public safety team that protects the entire community. The response was glowing as the Metro Communications mural was voted the “People’s Choice” out of 20 submissions and featured in their 2023 Annual Parade of Lights. 

“It was a really fun, rewarding project,” Derdall said. “We enjoyed coming together to create a piece of art that highlighted the importance of the work we do." 

“Lullaby” Film by Bear LeTrey

Chesterfield County Emergency Communications Center, Virginia (USA)


For Bear LeTrey (pen name), his titles of Emergency Communications Officer, EPD, EFD, EMD, Animal Services Dispatcher, and new-hire Training Officer are valued nearly as much as his title of father. Over nearly a decade, LeTrey has been working the midnight shift at Chesterfield County Emergency Communications Center.

His NPSTW film entry “Lullaby” has been years in the making, based off a melody he first composed in 2015 while expecting the arrival of his daughter as he was completing Dispatch Academy training.

LeTrey combined the calming, rhythmic tune with a written representation of his feelings through the sacrifices and struggles of raising his two children while maintaining what he describes as an “all-consuming career” as an Emergency Dispatcher. “Lullaby” portrays the gravity of feeling responsible for callers, patients, responders, and personal family life.

The film shows his dark drive to work with car seats and stuffed animals lit up by passing streetlights. “The mood and atmosphere of the music felt appropriate for the piece; melancholy, yet meaningful,” LeTrey said.

Using his bachelor’s degree in film from Virginia Commonwealth University, LeTrey completed the videography in one night with a bit of driving assistance to show different camera angles. Within a few days of editing, LeTrey was able to share the completed piece with his children, inspiring tears.

His daughter (age 8) and son (age 7) are still young to fully appreciate the meaning, but LeTrey hopes they will be able to reflect on the heart and perspective he has captured down the road. “It is only a visual representation of the life they are already so familiar with,” he said. 

LeTrey hopes his piece will encourage other emergency dispatchers who are struggling to balance professional and family responsibilities. “Take one day at a time, and prioritize what means most to you,” he said.