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The County of DuPage
Wheaton, Illinois

Press Release

Contact Information: Joan Olson (630) 407-6015 Evan Shields (630) 407-6022

Thursday, April 13, 2017

DuPage County Honors Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week – April 9 to 15 – honors telecommunications personnel who answer emergency and 911 calls, dispatch first responders and render assistance during a crisis.

In DuPage County, 153 telecommunicators answered more than 923,000 911 calls in 2016. They work around the clock in three different shifts in four different dispatch centers, providing help during emergencies and often saving lives.  

• In March, DU-COMM Certified Training Officer Steven Pirog and Probationary Telecommunicator Gabriella Valencia received a 911 call from an eight-year-old child, saying that her mother was having trouble breathing. As the call progressed, Valencia and Pirog realized that the mother had stopped breathing, but when they notified the responding police and fire units, they learned both were delayed at a train crossing. So Pirog provided compression instructions to the child—and after three minutes of chest compressions, the mother started breathing again.

• In July 2016, the DuPage Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Center received a cellular 911 call from someone gasping for air and saying he wanted to kill himself.  The caller could barely communicate and couldn’t give an address. Telecommunicators Barb Putnam, R. Natalie Thompson, and Mike Schmidt determined the caller’s location; while police checked the address, the telecommunicators kept the caller on the telephone and continued to update the cell location. The police found a 19-year-old man who was attempting to hang himself. He was taken to the hospital and survived his injuries.

• In April 2016, Telecommunicator Steve Wohlwend, in the Addison Consolidated Dispatch Center, received a call from a nine-year-old boy saying his mother choked him.  Wohlwend began to ask questions: Where was the mother, who else was in the house, were there weapons or intoxication involved? He determined that it was a domestic disturbance and stayed on the phone with the child until officers arrived at the apartment.

• In February 2016, DU-COMM Telecommunicator Jessica Padgett took a call from a woman who said her husband’s defibrillator was going off, and he was not breathing. The call was disconnected, but Padgett called the woman back and guided her through CPR instructions, counting with her during the compressions. Paramedics arrived, took over emergency treatment, and took him to the hospital—where he survived.

DuPage County residents can support the work and dedication of these public safety personnel by creating a Smart911 safety profile, a free service available to anyone who lives in, works in or visits the county. Smart911 users create a secure online profile that provides household information about family members, home, pets and vehicles. This information displays automatically on the 911 dispatcher's screen when users make an emergency call. 

“Public safety telecommunicators are generally the first voice you hear when you’re in an emergency situation,” said Gary Grasso, Chairman of DuPage County Emergency Telephone System Board, which provides the service. “When you call 911, you might not always be able to speak or think quickly to give them all the information they need. Smart911 helps first responders do their jobs more effectively by providing information that will help them, help you faster.”

The profile can contain any information that may be useful in an emergency, including users’ home and work addresses. This feature is particularly valuable because more than 70 percent of 911 calls come from mobile phones, whose exact location can’t always be determined by GPS from a cell tower.

The profile can also list medical information, such as medications or medical conditions; emergency contacts; and special considerations like language preferences, restraining orders or rescue notes. In case of a fire, a profile can help firefighters quickly locate all household members and rescue them safely; if a caller can’t speak, a profile can tell a first responder if there’s an underlying medical condition. Profiles can also include children’s photos, which saves valuable time if the child goes missing.

DuPage County was the first county in Illinois to offer Smart911; since its introduction in 2011, more than 31,000 county residents—and 32 million nationwide—have created safety profiles. Learn more on the DuPage ETSB webpage at www.dupageco.org/smart911 and register at www.smart911.com.