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6 ways to celebrate emergency medical dispatchers

Consider these gifts and tips for showing your appreciation during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

By Mark Corum

They are among our nation’s first responders, rarely seen but always heard and appreciated. The calm voices transmitting over radio airwaves are the heroes behind the scenes who ensure an ambulance crew responds to every 911 request for medical aid. They are emergency medical dispatchers (EMDs).

During April 14 – 20, let’s take a symbolic pause and celebrate these headset heroes as part of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (NPSTW). This annual recognition honors the thousands of people who answer the call, and deploy emergency personnel and resources to those needing help.

When putting together your recognition plan, consider internal and external ways of showing your appreciation. As communications centers never close, be sure to provide around-the-clock recognition for your crews across all shifts. Following are 6 ways to recognize emergency dispatchers.

Gifts for dispatchers

1. News coverage

Put together a news release highlighting NPSTW and email it to your local media outlets. If you don’t already have an established media contact list, you can generally find the news department’s email on their website. Be sure to follow up with a phone call to the newsroom and ask to speak with the assignment editor. Introduce yourself and ask if they received your news release and if they’d be interested in doing a story on your dispatchers.

You might be surprised, but newsrooms are likely very familiar with your dispatchers’ voices from monitoring scanner traffic to seek developing news stories. They will likely be more than happy to do a story on your dispatchers.

If your local television stations have a morning news show, see if they would be interested in doing a live shot from your facility. These are typically very early start times, i.e., 5 a.m. - 7 a.m., but provide an excellent opportunity to reach many viewers who are just waking up and getting ready for work, likely with the TV on.

A word of caution: If the news media is interested in doing a story from your communications center, go over the ground rules regarding HIPAA and patient privacy. Make sure a dispatcher actively assigning calls isn’t wearing a mic while the address of a request for medical aid is provided, or that a photograpger doesn’t zoom in too tight on a dispatcher’s monitors, revealing an address or other protected health information.

2. Social media

These days, every ambulance service, agency or department has a presence on social media. A social media post is a free way to generate awareness and recognition for your team. Consider crafting a different post each day of NPSTW that highlights various aspects of a dispatcher’s job. Don’t forget to include hashtags like #npstw #emd #nineoneonedispatcher #ems.


Photo/Hall Ambulance Inc.

3. City or county recognition

NPSTW is a great time to approach your city council or board of supervisors and request a resolution highlighting dispatchers’ vital role in their 911 system. Requests can often be made through their website or by calling the clerk.

Note: Submissions generally need to be received several weeks in advance, so this might be something to keep in mind for next year.

Now, let’s talk about internal recognition for your employees.

4. Banners

Make NPSTW a big deal by posting a banner or two around your facility. Place one inside the communications center and one in a prominent location where the field crews will see it.


Photo/Hall Ambulance Inc.

5. Everybody loves a free lunch (or breakfast or dinner)

Have a meal catered for your crews. Breakfast burritos, sub sandwiches or BBQ are always a hit!

Who doesn’t have a sweet tooth? Find a local bakery to order cupcakes. Most bakeries have the technology to make food-safe imprints of your agency’s logo or create a unique logo that celebrates the week.

Just keep in mind any dietary restrictions an employee might have.

6. Goodies


Photo/Hall Ambulance Inc.

Make NPSTW extra special by ordering t-shirts for your team with your agency’s logo and some type of graphic or message about their importance and commitment to the 911 system.

Last year, our communications manager put together color-coordinated gift baskets filled with treats for each dispatcher. We added acrylic key chains imprinted with our logo to the baskets. These are affordable and can be ordered online with a quick turnaround.

Other popular items that can be imprinted are tumblers, or pop sockets smartphone grips.

The work in a communications center is nerve-rackingly fast-paced, yet a casual observer would be in awe at the sense of cool, calm and collectedness exhibited by EMDs. They seamlessly balance radio transmissions, handle incoming and outgoing phone calls, and provide pre-arrival instructions (i.e., guiding someone through performing CPR, the Heimlich maneuver or even childbirth before the ambulance’s arrival).

Let’s take this week to let every dispatcher across America know that we appreciate them as a vital component of their organization and their community’s 911 system.

About the author
Mark Corum is the director of media services for Hall Ambulance Service, Inc., where he is responsible for promoting and protecting the Hall Ambulance brand.