You published this in the March/April PSC magazine but it should be shared far and wide. This involved suicides, involving youth.
Within the span of just three days, one team within the ECC took two such calls involving students from the same high school. When asked if these two calls impacted the team more than normal, Central Utah Dispatch Supervisor April Robbins said: “I think any time there are kids involved it affects us more than adults, especially if it’s a child suicide. It hits everyone pretty hard.”
Following the second suicide, Kamie Hair, the mother of a student in the school and a friend of Robbins, began to coordinate a response with the goal of showing students they were loved and needed. After reading a call for help on Facebook, Robbins got her team involved. “My team had taken both of the calls that prompted the project,” she said. “As the supervisor, I thought it would be therapeutic for them to participate.”
Robbins’ team — Alex Wall, Anjanelle Redford, Jason Reilly, Heather Robinson, Kaye Hinds, Taylor Higginson, Amber Rock, Cadee Thorn and Kendra Wilson — spent their “down time” when not answering phone calls or radio traffic during their 12-hour shift cutting out hearts and writing uplifting messages on them. Amber Rock, a public safety telecommunicator at Central Utah 9-1-1 and a member of the center’s Heart Attack team said, “I was very happy to be able to participate in this. The recent suicides affected all of us deeply, so to be able to do something so big, yet so simple left me • us, feeling we might have helped someone in some way.”
After answering phones, creating calls for service, coordinating field responders on the radio and cutting out hearts for 12 hours, the team’s shift ended and they handed in their contribution — hundreds of hearts bearing words of compassion and encouragement. The team’s hard work paid off. Their contribution, along with the contributions of many others, allowed Hair and other volunteers to place thousands of hearts. They went on every locker in the impacted school and on every entry door at 13 junior high and high schools in the Nebo School District. “Personally, I feel like all 9-1-1 centers should be involved in the community in one way or another,” Robbins said. “Most people’s involvement with us is on the worst day of their lives. So if we can do things to give back to the community and add some positivity, I say go for it!”
Was it worth it? Robbins says it was. The Heart Attack had a positive impact on students and staff. According to Robbins’ friend Hair, her daughter reported the classes that day to be more fun and the people in them happier. When asked if this type of project is something they would continue to do at their center, Robbins said, “I would say so. We typically wouldn’t go out and do that, but things that we can do (from) inside the center to help, we will definitely continue to do.”
As Rock said, the ability “to do something so big, yet so simple left me … us, feeling we might have helped someone in some way.”
While we cannot always reach out to those involved in traumatic incidents due to confidentiality concerns, the ability to be involved or lead projects like the Heart Attack helps provide comfort to all involved, including the frontline telecommunicator.