Audrey Fraizer

Audrey Fraizer

Story Vault

By Audrey Fraizer

Prank or unintentional misuse of 9-1-1 are not laughing matters at the New Hampshire Bureau of Emergency Communications but one did bring out unknown artistic talents in an EMD.

“I’d call this one off-color,” EMD Kathleen McCarty said. “It had to do with a caller’s indigestion.”

Since the center acknowledges exceptional events such as childbirth and delivery with the stork lapel pin, fellow dispatchers figured why not the same for answering calls for other out-of-the ordinary or extraordinary circumstances.

McCarty set to work, crafted the lapel from clay, and found herself a new and rewarding hobby.

“I had no idea I had it in me,” she said.

In the months following her first “release” of the lapel pin, McCarty extended her artistry in clay to 33 action figures, each depicting a medical condition related to the Medical Priority Dispatch System(MPDS) Protocol. Her preferred “sculpting medium” is the polymer clay she finds ideal for the detail work each protocol model requires. She buys the clay in the multi-color packages and bakes the sculpture in an oven until it hardens.

The results are impressive.

Each sculpture is from one to two inches in height. Each is different from the next. Some are elaborate. Some are simply understated. The childbirth and delivery figure is all in one color, while the more complicated multi-vehicular traffic accident on a highway bridge involves a black and white aircraft, yellow bus, orange and white propane tanker truck, and red compact car.

McCarty admits the creativity isn’t all hers.

“People here make suggestions and I come up with the idea of how to make it,” she said. “We have a good time with this.”

While McCarty certainly finds nothing funny about the emergencies the protocols attend to, she has found the hobby to be a good way to relieve the stress that comes with the job.

“She said her doctor recommended something to take her mind off work,” said Operations Chief David Rivers. “I don’t think this is exactly what the doctor meant.”

McCarty laughs at his comment, although she has found the concentration required to work in clay does help her relax. In keeping with her sense of humor, she sculpted a figure of Rivers standing in his “we know he’s worried” pose.

“He always grabs his left arm like he’s in stress pain,” she said.

Rivers likes the sculptures for both the artistic merit and the fun they bring into the communication center. He plans to put them on public display in the lobby outside the dispatch room.

“I can’t say I’ve seen anything like this in any other communication center,” he said. “And in their own way, they say a lot about what we do.”

McCarty has worked at the same agency since entering the profession 11 years ago. She likes the variety of emergency dispatch, the multitasking the work requires, and a job that lets her help people at the moment no one else can.

“What we do can affect a big change in a person,” she said. “It feels really good when we can calm a person while they wait for response to arrive.”