Summit County residents can rest tonight knowing that if they need to call 911, one of the county's dispatchers is the best in the state.
Summit County dispatch supervisor Dana Shaw was named Dispatcher of the Year by the Utah Bureau of Emergency Services and Preparedness on July 9 at the Viridian Event Center in West Jordan.
The Bureau of EMS and Preparedness (BEMS), according to its website, is the lead agency for Utah's EMS System. The BEMS is housed within the Utah Department of Health Division of Family Health and Preparedness.
"I am very proud," Shaw, 46, said. "It's kind of cool."
"It shows the level of commitment that our dispatchers hold," said Summit County Deputy Chief Justin Martinez of the award. "It reflects the tenor of the entire Sheriff's Department. It's a very prestigious award."
Shaw, an Oakley resident who grew up in Kamas and previously lived in Coalville, has been a dispatcher for 22 years, 17 of those for the Summit County Sheriff's Department. She has also served as a dispatcher for the South Salt Lake City Police, Park City Police, and Wasatch County.
She was nominated for the award by a fellow county dispatcher, Teri Peterson. "She deserves it," Peterson said. "She's the first to nominate other people She's always friendly and always pleasant."
Being pleasant can be difficult for dispatchers, who work thanklessly cloaked in anonymity in a dark room for as many as 10 or 12 hours a stretch, with long periods of silence interrupted by moments of life-or-death emergencies.
It can be even more complex when the callers are neighbors you know, Shaw said. One of the calls she once received was from her father, who called 911 as he suffered a heart attack. "That was very tough," she said. (He survived.)
Other tough calls involved officer-involved shootings in which she heard the terrifying words "Officer down" over the radio.
But being a dispatcher also has its rewarding moments amid the stress.
One of the most memorable calls she has received over the years was when a babysitting aunt called 911 to report a baby that wasn't breathing. Shaw calmly and methodically instructed the aunt through rescue breathing, and after a long moment of waiting, the baby started crying, able to breathe again. Shaw remembered breathing a sigh of relief and crying a little, too.