Some of the quiet heroes were honoured today at the 12th annual Simcoe County 9-1-1 Management Board Public Safety Communications Awards.
At a ceremony held Thursday at the Simcoe County Museum, individual and team awards were handed out to communicators who were recognized for their exceptional work in being the link between first responders and the citizens making calls for help.
The two top honours were the Simcoe County Communicator of the Year and Team Award, both going to Barrie services.
The 2018 Simcoe County Public Safety Communicator of the Year Award winner was Ryan Macdonald from Barrie Fire and Emergency Services.
Macdonald has served with the department for close to nine years after having been a volunteer firefighter with Essa Station No. 2.
After two knee surgeries and going back to school, Macdonald said he realized the job for him was being a communicator.
“I met a lady named Wendy Camber who used to dispatch for us and her voice made me think that maybe I could do that job. I like to think I have a strong personality and maybe it would come through,” Macdonald told BarrieToday. “I got trained for the position and I would say that Wendy is the inspiration that got me into this.
"Once I got started with it, I was all in," he added.
Barrie Deputy Fire Chief Sue Dawson presented the award to Macdonald and spoke of two particular events that led to Macdonald’s win.
One was a Tay Township fire earlier last year where Macdonald kept family members from running into the burning home and remaining calm and the other was when he took a call that involved his own grandmother.
“The fire from my grandmother’s house was a tough one, obviously,” Macdonald said. “There were two of us on it and it’s one of those things where there's no one else to pass the baton to, so you have to be professional and put that lump in your throat down and keep dispatching.
"There are people out there risking their lives to out that fire out and I want to help them out the best that I can, so you kind of suppress it and at the end of the call you take a little breather but then go on to the next one.”
The team award was presented to the team from the Barrie Police Service for their response to the near-drowning of a 12-year-old boy in Kempenfelt Bay on July 15, 2018.
The boy was pulled from the water by city lifeguards and needed to be rushed to the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto.
Dispatcher Linda Speers co-ordinated with uniform officers to clear a route to Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre and when the situation worsened, supervisor Caron Smith worked with the OPP and Toronto police to facilitate an emergency run to Sick Kids.
Assisted by dispatcher Melissa Nadeau, Smith relayed transmissions to and from all three communications centres and despite Sunday cottage country traffic, got the boy to the hospital in 45 minutes.
Communicators Kelly VanSchubert and Sarah Kenwright were also recognized for their seamless support of the investigation.
Barrie police communications trainer Arlene Haggarty told the packed room that boy, who is now 13, is healthy and “doing all the things a teenage boy should be doing, thanks to the work of this extraordinary team.”