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The National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week Challenge

By Special Guest Writer

Roxanne Van Gundy, ENP, RPL Director of Emergency Communications

When asked to write something encouraging to our front-line heroes on Telecommunicator Week, I thought of a quote from John Maxwell.

He said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership. Leaders lift, but when the leadership is bad, everything falls.” That speaks to Telecommunicator Week because it’s a shining example of which leaders add value to people and those who do not.

Telecommunicator Week isn’t about big parties, food, or games. It’s about thanking YOU for the job that you do. Telling someone “thank you” doesn’t cost a thing and can be a game-changer to those working in a thankless, stressful, overwhelming profession.

As TC Week approaches each year, we continue to see posts on social media asking people what they are doing for the week to celebrate. The negative answers still far outweigh the positive ones. In 2022, there are still centers in this nation who get no acknowledgement for the work that they do every day. To me, that is unacceptable. Leaders lift. And in more centers than not, the lifting isn’t happening enough, if at all.

Here’s the curveball Gold Family; when I talk about leaders lifting, I don’t just mean the government, administration, or supervisor you report to. I mean you. You are a leader by the nature of the job you were blessed with the ability to do. Not everyone can be a 9-1-1 Public Safety Telecommunicator. Absolutely anyone can be a leader in their organization if they challenge themselves to become one.

So, on this Telecommunicator Week, my encouragement to you is to challenge you to do more. If you are a front-line hero, work as a supervisor, or lead an agency, you can be a leader on this Telecommunicator Week. Culture shifts are forged by people who are unafraid to step up and do the hard thing. Changes start with people who look to add value to others, and adding value to people is at the core of everything Telecommunicator Week is all about.

We all know that the people who should be challenged to do more aren’t reading this article, but you are. You can be the tiny flame that sets TC Week on fire. You could be the person who could make that culture shift that trickles down into the other 51 weeks of the year. The decision starts with you, a leader who is ready to lift.

How can we possibly do more? We are stretched to the very limit!

I genuinely believe there is more in all of us, my dear friends. We each get the same 24 hours in a day. The difference is how each of us decides to spend them. Starting to change the tide in your center doesn’t have to be huge. Write everyone a small note about something you admire about them. Choose to tell your co-workers when something they’ve done has really helped you. Put together a dispatch bingo game. Organize a potluck. Do a food drive. Buy your co-workers something small from the dollar store.

Small gestures have significant impacts. Acknowledging someone could mean more to them than you ever know. I know from first hand experience, that it can be a catalyst for change.

But remember that everything worthwhile can sometimes be an uphill battle. People aren’t always going to get on board with someone who wants to do something differently. Being a Positive Polly can bring scrutiny, and that’s okay. Don’t be discouraged. Keep trying. Be consistent. Be brave enough to stand up and say that recognizing our work is essential.

But I also want you to make sure that you take some time this week to really sit back and realize how important, needed, and unique you truly are. Fill your own cup by realizing what a firework you really are.

You are something that mere words can’t measure. Words seem insignificant to describe how strong, resilient, and capable you are. Our centers, large and small, have some of the best people in the world. We must get louder about acknowledging that.

To me, there isn’t enough we can give you in thanks and appreciation to equal all you have endured these past few years. You have held the line through the fast pace changes of COVID, civil unrest, lack of staffing, low morale, and the general daily stressors of 9-1-1.

You have worn yourselves down. You’ve pushed yourself to the limit, but you keep showing up.

For that, I’m so grateful for you.

You are exceptional my friends. You are the elite few who can save countless people through emergency instruction, bring babies into this world and encourage someone in their darkest times to stay and fight for another day, all while taking calls and answering four radio channels simultaneously.

You take on everyone else’s trauma, hardship, and pain, without complaint. You put others first always and show up, so others don’t have to.

Please don’t forget to acknowledge how important that is.

Thank you for all that you are doing. Even if you might not feel seen, you truly are by me and so many others.

Happy Telecommunicator Week, Gold.

About the Author:

Roxanne Van Gundy, ENP, RPL, has served in public-safety for 17 years. Currently, she serves as the Director of Emergency Communications at the Lyon County Emergency Communications Center (KS). Van Gundy is also the President of the Kansas Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and she Co-Chairs national NENA's Wellness Committee.

Lyon County Emergency Communications Center: Website | Facebook | Twitter | TikTok

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