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A dedicated ear in emerencies

Dispatcher's professionalism, community involvement honored

Sturbridge police/fire EMS dispatcher Barbara Boiteau was back on the job Tuesday after being honored for her work for the second time this year. Christopher Tanguay. (click for larger version)
July 14, 2009
STURBRIDGE For the second time this year, Sturbridge Police/Fire/EMS dispatcher Barbara Boiteau has been recognized for her unwavering dedication to public safety.

On Monday, July 13, Boiteau was honored at a ceremony held at the Oliver Wight Tavern where she received the 2009 Jeff Grossman 911 Award. Boiteau is the 15th recipient of the award that was established in memory of Grossman, the man largely responsible for implementation of the 911 emergency call system in the commonwealth of Massachusetts.

"The Jeff Grossman 911 Award is presented annually to a public safety official, dispatcher, supervisor, engineer, 911 call taker or PASP (Public Safety Answering Point) manager who displays the traits exemplified by Jeff during his life," according to the Jeff Grossman Foundation.

In April, Boiteau received an Honor Award from the Massachusetts State 911 Department for her accuracy and efficiency in handling communications during two simultaneous, potentially dangerous, situations involving domestic disputes and firearms.

The Grossman Award however, looks beyond the actions of one night.

"It wasn't a singular event," explained Police Chief Thomas Ford. "It was everything she's done over the years that made her eligible for the award."

Citing the Jeff Grossman Foundation, Ford said it was her "'unwavering commitment to public safety communications without seeking personal gain,' that was the foundation for Barbara's recommendation for the award."

"She consistently gives up enormous amounts of her own time to cover shifts," Ford continued.

Working some extra hours is just the beginning.

Sgt. Michael Blanchard, who nominated Boiteau for the award, said the entire department has benefited from the training program she designed to introduce new communications workers with all the responsibilities of the job.

"She revamped our training process," Blanchard said.

Boiteau utilized the police's system of daily observation reports, Blanched explained, which made tracking the trainee's process much easier.

"When they're ready to hit the desk, they're ready to hit the desk," Blanchard said of dispatchers that go through the training program.

"She puts her all into it, and I'm really glad she got this honor because she truly deserves it," Blanchard said. "She is a worker, and doesn't ask for anything in return."

When she is not in the office, Boiteau is a regular working with senior citizen groups around the area, including the Senior Citizen's Police Academy and the Seniors And Law enforcement Together (SALT) program. In her presentations, Boiteau talks to people about everything from disability information to internet communication, including a lesson on the silent call procedure — a way to get help from 911 services using only the keypad of a telephone if verbal communication with the dispatcher is not an option.

Boiteau said that while communications is her specialty, she strives to educate people on "anything that has safety aspects."

Blanchard agrees.

"She wants everybody to be educated, whether it's the dispatcher working the desk or it's the citizen utilizing the 911 system," Blanchard said.

Boiteau said her drive to share information with the public is "just to let them know that there is something out there for them other than just picking up the phone. They can be safe."

Along with a plaque and clock, the Grossman Award carries with it an expense paid trip to Las Vegas for the 2009 APCO (Association of Public Safety Communications Officials) Conference and Expo in August.

Looking forward to networking with other dispatchers and learning about new communications technologies as well as some time to relax Boiteau still maintains her true character, saying Tuesday that she was still making sure all her shifts will be covered when she is gone.

As always, Boiteau was humble about the distinguished award, saying, "We all work had and it's nice to be recognized for the efforts."

State Rep. Todd Smola, R-Palmer, attended the award ceremony along with State Sen. Stephen Brewer, D-Barre, to congratulate Boiteau.

"Dispatchers are often overlooked as essentially our first responders," Smola said. "Not everybody has the opportunity to call 911 in an emergency," he continued, indicating that he has used 911 services twice in his life.

"I know that dispatchers in both cases are individuals who were able to talk me through precarious situations," Smola said.

Recognizing the prestige of the award in the emergency communications field, Smola said, "It's a wonderful thing for the community. It's wonderful to say we have that person in Sturbridge."

Brewer recounted the Pentagon attack of Sept. 11, 2001, saying the first people to field emergency calls from government officials were dispatchers of the Arlington, Virginia police and fire departments.

"Barbara exemplifies dedication above and beyond the call of duty," Brewer said.

When running out of the Sturbridge Public Safety Complex on a call Tuesday, Lt. Alan Curboy summed up the thoughts of the whole department when he yelled, "Good job Barbara!"

News staff writer Christopher Tanguay may be reached at (508) 909-4132, or by e-mail at ctanguay@stonebridgepress.com.

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