We already know our public safety telecommunicators working at our 911 call center are heroes, but now Stephanie Austin has the hardware to prove it. The seasoned telecommunicator was recognized recently as an EMS WNC Hero for the way she handled a particularly difficult call. On the line was a distressed woman whose husband had stopped breathing. Stephanie’s quick and composed response explaining how to give chest compressions until help arrived helped save a life that day. “She was obviously panicking a little as anyone would be in this situation,” explains Stephanie. “I tried my best to calm her and keep her focused on the task at hand. She did a great job… I was able to keep tabs on [the husband’s] progress through a Facebook friend who knew the couple. I was so happy to hear he was doing well and made such a great recovery. We don't always get to know the outcome, but I'm glad I got to know the outcome of this one.”
Coworker and supervisor Elizabeth Andrews says she’s extremely proud of Stephanie’s work. “It can be intimidating taking 911 calls, but she was able to do exactly what she was taught and help the caller calm down and start lifesaving CPR. In cases of cardiac arrest, early CPR intervention is critical to keep that patient going until EMS and Fire can get on scene,” says Elizabeth. “I think it’s important for the people of Buncombe County to realize that even though we are short staffed, the people in the room care about you and your call. It’s important that they understand people like Stephanie are highly trained individuals with a skill set that few possess who are there to help you as best we can.”
While nobody would argue Stephanie’s quick thinking and dedication to training make her a hero, in true fashion she remains extremely humble. “I was shocked because I didn't think I was qualified to hold the title of a hero. I work with heroes everyday who are on scene doing the physical work of saving lives,” she says. “Then, I thought about how wonderful it was that someone in communications was being recognized for their efforts because we are the people behind the scenes, so we don't get a lot of recognition for the work we do behind the scenes. In my opinion dispatchers are the first, first responders, and we are tasked with trying to help people in any way possible until other help can arrive on scene.”
It takes a team effort, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be multiple heroes, and Stephanie beyond qualifies. Buncombe County is so proud you are the recipient of the 2023 EMS WNC Hero Award, and we are thankful for your passion and dedication to your work.