The North Central Texas Council of Governments Regional 9-1-1 program recently presented its Telecommunicator of the Year Award for 2013 to Ellis County Sheriff’s Office Dispatcher Heidi Smith.

Smith, an 18-year veteran of ECSO Communications, was honored with a plaque for her “professionalism and outstanding dedication to 9-1-1.” The nomination stemmed from a March 20, 2013, incident on Bee Creek Road near Maypearl, when Smith took a 9-1-1 call reporting, “We have people shooting at us.”

During the call, Smith took information from a caller who reported two suspects had attempted to break into her and her husband’s home before firing upon them. Her husband, who returned fire, was wounded in the incident.

As the incident ensued, Smith not only worked with the caller but also made the initial dispatching of units with the information she had obtained. She would remain on the line with the caller for 29 minutes and continued to relay information to other dispatchers to provide to the responding Deputies and other law enforcement.

“Due to Heidi’s ability to calm the caller down and keep her calm during the entire call, she was able to get information needed so officers could put together an entry team and enter the property in a safe and controlled manner,” Supervisor Carla Rolland wrote in her nomination.

Rolland also cited Smith’s “ability to think quickly during a stressful situation, calm a frantic caller and keep all responding units safe by getting detailed descriptions and locations of two armed suspects.”

Smith’s memories of the incident include her recollections of “the panic in the caller’s voice, actually hearing the gunshots. It was pretty surreal.”

Taking such a call is where all of the training and experience comes into play. “It’s knowing that you’re that person’s lifeline,” Smith says. “It’s knowing that you have to make the right decisions, split-second decisions.”

Ellis County Sheriff’s Office Communications is one of 43 public safety answering points eligible to make a nomination for annual honors extended by the NCTCOG Regional 9-1-1 program.

The different PSAP supervisors voted on the recipients during their quarterly meeting in August. Smith was one of three nominees for Telecommunicator of the Year, with the nominated work related to a specific call occurring between Sept. 1, 2012, and Aug. 31, 2013.

“I like the fact that you’re helping people,” Smith says of her work as a dispatcher. “They’re calling you for help and I feel like we make a difference that way. That’s what we’re here for, is to help the public.

“We make a difference, whether there’s a child that’s been injured and needs help or whether we’re helping the Deputies catch a suspect,” she says. “It’s exciting and rewarding both.”