Penobscot County dispatchers earn statewide honors

Posted April 22, 2009, at 8:36 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:22 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Dispatchers from the Penobscot Regional Communication Center received two statewide awards earlier this month.

The presentations were made during the annual conference of the Maine chapter of the National Emergency Number Association in Lewiston.

James Ryan, executive director of the Bangor-based dispatch center, said that Erin Coombs received the Telecommunicator of the Year award for her expert and compassionate handling of a 911 call from a despondent Korean War veteran.

Ryan said the man was contemplating ending his life because his wife and other important people in his life had died. He said the man also was upset about the direction that the war in Iraq was taking.

“She created a granddaughter-grandfather relationship with him,” Ryan said.

He said that the dispatcher got the man to talk about his work and his children and convinced him he would have much to offer as a volunteer in his community. The man’s name and address were not disclosed for confidentiality reasons.

“She gave him a reason to live. The way I look at it, she saved the life of a war veteran that day,” said Ryan, a retired master chief petty officer with the Naval Reserve whose more than 30 years of service included deployments during the Vietnam and Gulf wars.

By the end of the 911 call, “he was calling her his little angel,” Ryan said.

Ryan noted that Coombs grew up in an emergency services-oriented family. She is the daughter of Lt. Frank Coombs of the Hampden Fire Department, he said.

The chapter’s Silent Hero Award went to supervisor Tracey Erickson, who took on the task of coordinating certification and licensing-related training for the center’s staff members, Ryan said.

Although the Telecommunications Team of the Year award went to Lincoln County’s emergency dispatch center, Ryan said his center’s nominees were strong contenders for that honor.

Coombs and her supervisor, Betty Stone, were nominated for their handling of an incident in a Holden mobile home park that stemmed from a drug deal that apparently went sour.

During a 911 call from the park, the two were able to elicit information that proved crucial to the police who responded, Ryan said.

dgagnon@bangordailynews.net

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