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DeKalb 911 operator wins national telecommunicator award

4/18/2014, 6:10 a.m.
Her voice cracking with emotion, veteran DeKalb 911 operator Danielle Harvey was momentarily at a loss for words.
Danielle Harvey, who was named the 2014 National Smart911 Telecommunicator, donated her $1,000 cash prize to the Women’s Resource Center, which assists domestic violence victims and their children. Photo by Ken Watts

Her voice cracking with emotion, veteran DeKalb 911 operator Danielle Harvey was momentarily at a loss for words.

Co-workers showered her with love and respect on April 16 at a DeKalb Police news conference where she was named the 2014 National Smart911 Telecommunicator.

Harvey won the award from a field of 20 finalists who were selected from hundreds of 911 operators nominated nationwide by 911 call-takers and dispatchers for outstanding leadership, performance, compassion for callers, and the ability to inspire co-workers.

During the online public voting, thousands of people from the United States and around the globe voted to select a national winner and four regional honorees.

Harvey was announced the 2014 national winner at the news conference at DeKalb Police Tucker headquarters where the 911 communications center is located.

She accepted the honor on behalf of fellow operators.

“This is for everybody, not just me,” she said. “We’re recognizing all of DeKalb’s finest, all of those operators are in there taking calls all day every day, listening, counseling and saving lives.”

After the ceremony, Harvey said it was “nice” to be recognized.

“We [911 operators] never get recognized for what we do unless it’s something bad,” she said. “So it’s nice to be recognized in a good light.”

The award from Rave Mobile Safety, creators of the Smart911 software, came with a $1,000 cash prize that Harvey donated to the Decatur-based Women’s Resource Center, which offers emergency shelter for domestic violence victims and their children.

Harvey, who has been with the county’s 911 department for seven years, was recognized for “her exemplary work as a Certified Training Officer and outstanding job performance.” The Boston-based free service allows people nationwide to create safety profile information for their households that 911 call centers can use to help them in emergencies.

Harvey, who began work as a telecommunicator in 2007, trains new dispatchers. She teaches them response strategies and critical thinking.

Fellow 911 operator Crystal Morrow, one of her trainees, knows the value of Harvey’s insights and instruction.

In August 2013, just four hours into her shift on her first day on the job, Morrow took an emergency call. Seconds into the call, she realized she was speaking with her aunt about her 55 year-old father who was in diabetic shock.

Morrow calmly instructed her aunt on what she had to do, then dispatched an ambulance to her father’s home. He recovered and is doing fine.

At the ceremony, Morrow said Harvey trained her how to stay calm, take the call and put it into the system.

“I got through the call,” Morrow said. “You have to separate your emotions from what you have to do and get help for the citizens.”

After the call, Morrow was excused from the post so that she could be with her family.

Harvey said it’s nice to know the things she teaches stick with her students.

“I’m able to pass on my knowledge to somebody else and they’re able to absorb it and apply it to help someone else,” Harvey said.

Morrow’s coolness under fire and Harvey’s role in training her spread throughout the public safety community.

Harvey also is credited with diligently assisting field units in safely locating a missing elderly woman.

Her colleagues found the perfect opportunity to honor her when they became aware of the Smart911 award.

April is National 911 Education Month, and the second full week is traditionally celebrated as National Public Safety Telecommunications Week.

Dr. Cedric Alexander, the county’s chief operating officer for public safety, praised Harvey and other operators for their devotion to duty. He said the 911 center handles more than 1.2 million calls a year.

“This is a very challenging job,” he said. “It takes a lot of dedication from a lot of wonderful people who really don’t make a whole lot of money, but they have hearts as big as this room.”

Marshall Mooneyham, the 911 Communications director, called Harvey the ultimate team player.

“Danielle is an invaluable member of our team here and is respected by all of us,” Mooneyham said.

“We could not be more pleased to see her honored in this way.”