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Answering the Call in Newtown

Unless you are doing the job or are one of the victims and families it is not possible to truly understand what the men and women responding to the tragedy in Newtown are going through. Without the unique strengths of these heroes, how can anyone cope with a situation of such immensity and the emotional aftermath?

Of the many most closely touched by this tragedy, my mind keeps returning to those who answered the calls to 9-1-1.

“Gunfire in an Elementary school!”

Can you imagine taking that call? How would you stay at your post? How would you not immediately disassociate at such horror? How would you keep your mind on your work and not race to find out if your children, grandchildren and loved ones are impacted? By any natural expectation they should, but they don’t.

These unique people, who on a day-to-day basis serve as our front lines in dealing with often the worst of what our society can demonstrate, surely not even during their worst nightmares may have imagined such events. First graders, teachers, teacher’s aides and a principal mown down by a weapon fit only for the battlefield and ammunition hardly fit for any humane environment.

Imagine the thoughts that must pass in and out of the conscious mind as a soul tries to piece together disparate and confusing bits of information as they play a key role in orchestrating an appropriate and effective response. Of all the challenges and there are many, the intellectual task of keeping one’s mind on the work seems difficult to achieve.

Listening to the Connecticut State Police recordings of radio communications of events as they unfolded gives the bystander slight insight. Without the training and experience of the professionals involved it is hard to create a full mental image. What comes across clearly is a spectrum of emotions ranging from professional detachment, to occasional confusion, to the plaintive trailing off of the voices of human beings seeing horrors truly unimaginable.

As I listened what struck me most are the periods of silence. There is where I think back to the 9-1-1 call taker. It is a job of unique patience and skill to bear the emotional rigors. As first to hear, then to wait and often last to really know the whole story, their emotional fortitude is immensely admirable.

Thank you to the personnel of the Town of Newtown Emergency Communications Center and your fellow public safety telecommunicators across this continent. From the time that I wrote this post and for every moment since you remain our continuous link in saving lives, stopping crime and caring for those affected.

We don’t give you enough credit and we owe you more than we can ever repay.

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Happy holidays!

Guy Clinch is the principal member of Guy Clinch Consulting, LLC. Guy has 30 years of industry experience and has held positions at Avaya, Lucent Technologies and AT&T. The mission of Guy Clinch Consulting, LLC is to help members of the Avaya technology and go-to-market ecosystems to better serve the needs of Avaya customers. Guy contributes on numerous industry panels and committees. He is a Life Member of the National Association of State Technology Directors and past chair of NASTD’s Corporate Affiliate Council. Other organizations Guy serves include the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International and the National Emergency Number Association. For many years Guy was the Avaya champion of the International Alliance of Avaya Users Contact Center Council. He is a graduate of Salem State College and the Harvard University Extension School. more

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