Reaching New Heights Together

Becca Barrus

Becca Barrus


In his remarks at the Opening Session of NAVIGATOR 2023 in Denver, Colorado (USA), Jerry Overton, President of the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch® (IAED), kept with tradition by quoting Mark Twain.

“‘Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear,’” Overton said. “It takes courage to make changes, and there have been a lot of changes in the past year. Changes in the public’s expectations. Changes to methodology, to technology, to the protocols. You’ve all handled these changes wonderfully. My hat is off to you.”

Overton announced that the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS®) now covers the entire countries of Ireland, Lithuania, New Zealand, North Ireland, Qatar, Trinidad, and Wales. In 2022, there were 18,683 new Academy certifications and 21,139 recertifications. Over 21,000 members enrolled in the Dispatcher-Directed CPR Course on the College of Emergency Dispatch, contributing to the 374,620 CDE hours earned worldwide. The much anticipated EMD Mentor Course will be available in the United States soon. Yes, there have been many updates to the field of emergency response, and as always, the Emergency Dispatchers in the United States and abroad have risen to the occasion

2023 awards

The rest of the Opening Session was full of more metaphorical hat tipping. It was revealed by Eric Fayad, IAED Associate Director of Instructor Services, that the Instructor of the Year Award has been renamed in honor of the late Dave Massengale, who taught more than 35,000 Emergency Dispatchers over his illustrious career. Carole Massengale , Dave’s wife, joined Fayad on the stage to present the award. The recipient of the 2023 Dave Massengale Instructor of the Year Award was Barbara Ireland, retired Deputy Chief with New Orleans (Louisiana, USA) EMS. Ireland became an EMD Instructor with the Academy in 2008 and has taught over 250 courses to date. According to Fayad, Ireland is “a rock star.”

At the beginning of her career as an instructor, Ireland did her team teaching with Dave Massengale, benefitting greatly from his mentorship and guidance. It was fitting for her to be the first recipient of this award renamed for Dave’s contributions to the field.

Also in keeping with tradition, the 2023 Dispatcher of the Year Award was prefaced by playing a phone call. A woman who has overdosed on pills shakily says, “Don’t let me die today.” The Emergency Dispatcher tells her that it takes a lot of courage to call for help and that it sounds like she has something left in her that wants to fight. He stays on the line with her until responders arrive on scene.

After the recording ended, Stephen Zipprich, Senior Emergency Communications Operator with the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC – Portland 911), Oregon (USA), was called to the stage to accept the award with hundreds of his colleagues giving him a standing ovation on his way up.

Brett Patterson, Chair of the Medical Council of Standards for the IAED, presented the award saying that the Dispatcher of the Year is more than just a call. Other considerations included Zipprich’s attributes and contributions to the profession, such as his involvement with his agency’s Dispatch Review Committee and his ability to effectively clarify and enhance the Protocol within the standards. The call is also significant, and Patterson mentioned that it helped while creating updates for Protocol 25: Psychiatric/Mental Health Conditions/Suicide Attempt/Abnormal behavior.

The recipient of the 2023 Research Poster of the Year Award was Michelle Haynes, an ED-Q with Weld County Regional Communications in Greeley, Colorado. Her poster, “An Overall QA Approach of Performance Within The MPDS,” was based upon her study examining which Protocols contribute to the most deviations in Emergency Dispatcher performance and which specific areas within those Protocols contributed to the errors. It was her first poster, but from the way she talks about emergency dispatch research, it won’t be her last!

The final award to be announced at NAVIGATOR was the Dr. Jeff J. Clawson Leadership Award, which was given to Thomas (Tom) P. Somers. With over 30 years of experience with the Los Angeles City Fire Department (California, USA) in both field operations and in the communication center, Somers’ contributions to the Academy are plentiful and pervasive. He has been a contributing member of the IAEFD Council of Standards and its Readers Committee since being approved by the Board of Trustees over 15 years ago. According to Mike Thompson, a Fire Protocol, Academics and Standards Expert, and Gary Galasso, IAED Council of Fire Standards Chair, Somers’ fingerprints are on almost every single developed and approved Proposal For Change (PFC) during that time frame.

Along with his award, Somers received a check that he donated to RaisingHOPE, a nonprofit benefitting children and young adults experiencing foster care.

ACE recognition

If you were impressed by how many agencies were recognized in 2022, hold on to your hat! This year, 124 ACEs were celebrated—over 30 new ACEs and 80 re-ACEs, including a handful of agencies in Colorado where the conference was held. Christof Chwojka, Chair of the IAED Board of Accreditation, likened becoming an ACE to playing in the champions league.

“You are the best of the best,” he said before he and Kim Rigden, IAED Associate Director of Accreditation, announced each agency. Notable new ACEs are Sindh Integrated Emergency and Health Services (SIEHS) in Karachi, Pakistan, and three new ACEs in Germany—Großleitstelle Oldenburger Land AöR in Oldenburg and Landkreis Emsland and Leistelle Ems-Vechte AöR in Meppen (which is also the first and only fire ACE in Europe).


As ever, the Gala Reception held in the Exhibit Hall the evening before the Opening Session gave attendees the dose of excitement and anticipation they needed to rocket through the week. The hall was filled with 50 exhibitors displaying the unique goods and services they offer the emergency response community, most of them giving out free swag like pens, tote bags, and enamel pins showing dispatch pride. A caricature artist set up shop in one corner of the giant room, and attendees roamed around with drinks and snacks, finding old friends and making new ones. If you stuck around long enough, you probably even saw a pen of black lab puppies waiting to be cuddled and help relieve your stress!

Whether you saw us promoting it on our social media profiles or heard about it in the Opening Session, you were probably at a loss as to what exactly a “Snowy Summit Silent Disco” was. It’s exactly what it sounds like—a silent disco themed in honor of Denver’s trendy ski scene. You know how at some parties the music is too loud to have decent conversations or the DJ is playing music you hate? That wasn’t a problem at our party! Revelers were given headphones with three different options of music to groove to, and those who didn’t want to dance didn’t have to. The ballroom was filled with plenty of other ways to have a fun night. Nostalgic 80s video games like Pac-Man and air hockey, fake fire pits, and a shaved ice truck guaranteed that no one would leave without a grin on their face.

As the final party of the week, the ACE Reception was a classy, laid-back affair. Dressed in formal attire, Chwojka and Rigden greeted ACE members warmly as they came through the doors. The two ACE afficionados gave a brief speech reiterating their admiration at everyone’s work ethic and determination in reaching this goal. After bringing the present Board of Accreditation members onto the stage and thanking them for their invaluable role, the attendees spent the rest of the evening enjoying good music and even better company.


As he brought his keynote address to a close, J.R. Martinez, actor, author, motivational speaker, advocate, and wounded U.S. Army veteran, captured the spirit of positivity, growth, and tenacity that was displayed all through the week. He shared stories from his childhood with the crowd, including the times he called 911 to report that his mom’s boyfriend was hitting her. When he was small and scared, the voice on the other end of the line made him feel less alone.

“From the people whose stories you never hear finished,” Martinez said, “thank you.”

We hope to see you next year in Washington, D.C.! The conference will be held April 16–18, 2024, in the Gaylord National Harbor Resort & Convention Center. If you’re interested in presenting yourself, you have the opportunity to submit a conference session proposal until July 29, 2023. Go to navigator.emergencydispatch.org for more details.

For more on the award recipients and what precisely “Reaching New Heights” meant to various attendees, don’t miss Audrey Fraizer’s stories on IAEDJournal.org.