Answering the call: Chicago dispatchers honored for being ‘voice of hope’ amid tragedy

Chicago News

CHICAGO — Life and death emergencies happen daily in Chicago. 

Most incidents involve someone at the other end of a 911 call, the faceless voices of calm in a storm. But, on Monday, dispatchers were given not only a face but also thanks. 

“Our 911 employees are the city’s front line and the voice of hope for residents and first responders in their most trying moments,” said Office of Emergency Management and Communication (OEMC) Executive Director Rich Guidice. 

The OEMC answers four million calls per year in the city of Chicago, spread out over 500 call takers and dispatchers.  

First responders were critical on Aug. 7, the day Officer Ella French was shot and killed and her partner Carlos Yanez was critically wounded – having been ambushed on a traffic stop.  

Yanez, who is still recovering, set aside his therapy on Monday to attend.  

 “They’re the angels on our shoulders – we got to count on them when we’re going through the hardest times when we’re in the fight,” Yanez said. 

Every April, awards are given to brave men and women, but time couldn’t wait for a select group of heroic members. 

“As partners of public safety, they exemplify the courage and commitment to public service,” said OEMC Training Supervisor Mariann McKeever. “Today, we recognize and acknowledge your dedication as an asset to OEMC and the safety of our first responders.” 

It’s not just police officers, paramedics and firefighters.   

In June, Communications Supervisor Tim Bingham was finishing up his shift in the electrical room when he passed out and suffered a heart attack. 

“His co-workers jumped into action, performing CPR and utilizing an AED to save his life,” said 911 Coordinator Matt Tokarz. “Tim was saved by the knowledge and skills of his colleagues.” 

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