911 Tree Of Life Tapestry

Audrey Fraizer

Audrey Fraizer

Web Exclusives

Roll out the dress-down days and acknowledgment. Send in the food and drink. It’s National Public Safety Telecommunications Week (NPSTW) (April 10–16) and the annual high wire anticipation of big events celebrating the first, first responders.

This year, to complement local recognitions, a joint effort coordinated by the NHTSA National 911 Program Office is springing green in its tribute to emergency dispatchers across the map—green as the leaves on a tree. The Telecommunicator Tree of Life (although featuring more of a tapestry of colors, not only green) is planted in a virtual space online (https://911treeoflife.org/). The leaves clinging to the tree’s branches symbolize emergency dispatchers nominated by their agencies and by the public in gratitude for the service they received.

No two leaves on this tree are exactly alike. The leaves each represent a call, a person, an event, a gesture of good that signifies the emergency dispatcher’s superpowers giving shape and form to 911 communications. The tree shows everyone—responders, the public, and other emergency dispatchers—“the incredible work they [emergency dispatchers] do every day in their communities,” said Ty Wooten, Director of Government Affairs, International Academies of Emergency Dispatch® (IAED). 

Like leaves on a tree, emergency dispatchers are the connection—the vital link—in providing a canopy of protection and assistance in the chain of emergency response. 

Douglas County Emergency Communications in Lawrence, Kansas (USA), has seven leaves on the tree recognizing the dedicated dispatch-assisted CPR that its EMDs have provided over the past 18 months since the virtual tree was introduced last year during NPSTW. Training Coordinator & Quality Assurance Coordinator Sonya Baeza based her nominations—she submitted all seven—on the EMD coaching the caller through instructions until field responders arrived on the scene, commenced CPR or activated an AED, and transported a resuscitated patient to the hospital.

Baeza, who is devoted to EMD recognition, said the addition of a leaf, making their efforts known to the public, means a lot to the individual. “It gives them something tangible they can have to show that they are truly working to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Douglas County public services—fire, police, ambulance, and communications—all delight in the EMD recognition, Baeza said. “We all take great pride in their level of training and skills.”

And the tree? It’s a “wow” moment displayed on a digital screen at the communication center. It’s a big deal, a morale booster. The tribute contributes to a sense of accomplishment and a show of gratitude for their work and dovetails the four-tier recognition program she put in place at the center this past year. “They are super proud [of the recognition]. It’s a good way to show our appreciation,” she said.

Baeza started in the profession 10 years ago at Douglas County and, during her first year, received the Director’s Award for Excellence. “The award was super motivating,” she said.

The same goes for the virtual tree. Super motivating. Someone noticed and dedicated a leaf in their name to spread the good news.

Go to https://911treeoflife.org/ to see the leaves representing the emergency dispatchers already recognized. There is room for plenty more. Fill out the form available from the site to submit the name of a 911 telecommunicator sitting next to you, across the room, or at any center of your choosing. 

The Tree of Life also accepts—and encourages—nominations from the public and responders. A submission requesting a name posted does not require a traumatic or life-threatening event. Great work also takes customer service, pride in the profession, and the willingness to support others in their 911 careers. While NPSTW happens in April—prime time for adding your leaves—this tree stays rooted. It will continue to grow and bring others into the forest.

The 911 Tree of Life website is made possible through national stakeholder organizations and other 911 entities who have joined together to spread the word to the 911 community and encourage celebration of the impact telecommunicators to have in our lives. The IAED, 911der Women, and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) are among the Tree of Life sponsors.