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911 Dispatchers Honored With Annual Awards

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SEVERNA PARK, Md. (WJZ)– Honoring those who answer the call for help.

Thirty-five 911 dispatchers received awards Thursday, but Andrea Fujii explains, they don’t consider themselves heroes.

When 911 is dialed, these men and women are on the other end. And every year, each county in Maryland recognizes one 911 operator for their outstanding service.

“I like helping people,” said Charlene Brown, a Baltimore City 911 operator.

In January, dispatcher Jennifer Athanasiou helped a new dad bring his child into the world on Highway 97 in Millersville.

“I was able to help the father deliver the baby, and by the time the paramedics arrived on scene, we had the baby wrapped up and they were ready to transport to the hospital,” said Athanasiou, a 911 operator in Anne Arundel County.

There are 24 911 centers across the state that receive five million distress calls every year.

The department says stress on the job causes a high turnover rate. Some even require counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder. But many stories have happy endings like for Cecil County’s Lt. Mary McLennan, who helped save a woman and child from domestic violence.

“I said, ‘So something’s going on there,’ and she said, ‘Yes’, and I said, ‘Did he hit you?’ ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I have police en route to you.'”

Hurricane Irene and the recent flooding have bombarded 911 centers, but these operators say nothing will keep them from answering the call for help.

“Letting them know that somebody does care, and if they’re the only one there, you’re the next best thing they got,” Brown said.

There are more than 1,000 911 dispatchers across the state. This is the ninth year for the awards.

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