Audrey Fraizer

Audrey Fraizer


By Audrey Fraizer

If you plotted three points on a map of the United States and drew a line connecting each of the points, it’s very unlikely you’d chart a triangle drawing a better and more unique dancing trio, climbing group, or wildlife collection than found at NAVIGATOR 2013.

But that’s what a conference catering to a single multi-layered profession—emergency communications—can do for a distinctive group of people. And at least 75% of the 1,329 conference attendees gathered for an evening of dancing plus the simulated sports of rock climbing and camping adored of Utah outdoor enthusiasts.

Paul Logan, Liza Garcia, and Tracy Trogdon met at the Wednesday evening “Big Adventure” dancing to the music of the Groove Merchants, although they flew into Salt Lake City from three fairly distant points.

“We’re having a blast,” Garcia said. “We’re from three different states and it’s like we’ve known each other forever.”

Logan is the support services manager for Dane County (Wis.) Public Safety Communications, Garcia is a sergeant with Cleveland (Ohio) Emergency Medical Services, and Trogdon is the communications training specialist for the Fayetteville (N.C.) Police Department communications center.

Trogdon, incidentally, was the Fayetteville-Cumberland Crisis Intervention Team telecommunicator of the year for 2012. The CIT program provides training to distinguish between psychiatric crisis and criminal behavior. Garcia is an Academy-certified EMD instructor.

But back to “The Big Adventure.”

No saying what brought them to the three-day conference, excluding the obvious professional tie, although the opportunity to leave the strain of work behind for at least one evening seemed to be a winning factor.

Logan, who has worked his way from dispatcher to manager during the past 20 years in the emergency communications profession, said he likes the energy and enthusiasm NAVIGATOR brings out.

“The people I meet here are absolutely passionate about what they do,” he said. “We are in the unique position of having an impact on someone’s life, and it’s an ability we practice every day. I couldn’t be more proud of what we do.”

Across the room from the dance floor, and past the buffet tables of food traditionally considered outdoor fare—hamburgers and tube steaks and beans and chips—were a high-fiving threesome from the Weld County (Greeley, Colo.) Regional Communications Center. Marc Patterson, Ralene Poncelow, and Jon Lunsford had each made it to the top of the best crags in the Salt Palace Convention Center using the top rope climbing equipment provided.

Poncelow, who attempted the easy and medium rated 24-foot-tall walls, said it was amazing to reach the top and press the button signifying a successful climb.

“Fantastic,” she said. “It’s been one of the best parts of the evening.”

Of course, that was second to hanging out—no pun intended—with her other classmates from the Communications Center Manager (CCM) course, of which five people from Weld County attended. Of the 42 CCM graduates, 26 made it to their first reunion at NAVIGATOR.

If dancing and camping weren’t your thing, “The Big Adventure” also offered a comparatively peaceful campground surrounded by cougars, bears, moose, and elk disguised in red, orange, and green Styrofoam body suits. An authentic looking campfire surrounded by real logs and outlier tents provided a soothing atmosphere reminiscent of group campsites dotting Utah’s state and national parks.

“I love it,” said Lindsay Stroberg, supervisor, FoxComm E-911 Center in Fox Lake, Ill. “It’s great to be around so many people in the same profession.”

People profiles

Tamaria Patterson Sevwana Allen

Supervisors Houston Emergency Center, Texas

Houston, Texas, may be known for a lot of cool things, but mountains isn’t one of them (unless you count Blackwell Peninsula that climbs to 10 feet above sea level) and that’s the part of Salt Lake City immediately impressing these two dispatch supervisors from “Space City.” “People said when you get there look at the mountains, and, of course, you can’t miss them,” Tamaria said. “They’re gorgeous, a dream come true.” Sevwana said while they had no plans for hiking, just being near them gave her a “peaceful feeling.”

Eric Callender

Consultant/Owner Emergency Services Consultants, Okla.

As an EMD instructor, it wasn’t too surprising Callender attended the pre-conference Medical Instructor Recertification Workshop offering but since Callender made the switch from being affiliated with a communication center to running his own consulting company, he chooses the rest of his sessions with a different mindset. “I looked at titles for things I’m going to help centers overcome—staffing issues and things like that.” Classes on his not-to-miss list included Shiftwork Survival and sessions presented by Jim Lanier and Kevin Willett. Plus, he makes sure the Exhibit Hall and networking opportunities are not overlooked, especially hearing about other centers’ experiences with hurdles similar to those he might end up helping other centers work to overcome. “I always appreciate NAVIGATOR. I haven’t missed a NAVIGATOR since 2006.”

Roxie Sackman

Emergency Communications Officer (ECO), Peace River, Alberta Health Services, Alberta, Canada

Roxie was the lucky winner of the center’s drawing for who got to go to NAVIGATOR among the ECOs scoring above 90% in compliance for six consecutive months. But that wasn’t the end of her luck. Roxie was on a roll—not only did she get to hang out with others from the ED community and attend lots of great classes, but she also scored tickets to a Bon Jovi concert in Salt Lake City on the evening of the first full day of conference. “I’m having a great time,” she said. “Lots to learn and lots to see.”

Lindsay Stroberg

Supervisor, FoxComm E911 Communication Center, Ill.

Lindsay was passing Wednesday evening listening to the Groove Merchants at The Big Adventure when interrupted to answer a couple of brief questions over a background of very loud music. “Yes,” she liked the first day of conference. “Yes,” she had plans to take the information back to her center, and “yes,” she was finding Salt Lake City a fun place to visit despite the unseasonably cold, rainy weather. But the best part, she said, was being among others from her profession.“This is my career,” she said. “It’s a calling. I don’t know of many jobs that provide such a fulfilling feeling at the end of the day.”