Dispatcher named national award-finalist for life-saving efforts

Samantha Denning, a finalist for the Telecommu (photo by Paradise Valley Police Department)

Samantha Denning, a finalist for the Smart Telecommunicator Award (photo by Paradise Valley Police Department)

After a heroic effort to give assistance to a woman on the other end of the phone during a 9-1-1 call, north Scottsdale resident Samantha Denning has been named a finalist for the Smart Telecommunicator Award.

The award, presented by Smart911 recognizes the 911 dispatchers who work tirelessly to ensure that each emergency is responded to effectively and every caller receives the assistance they need.

Ms. Denning, 30, has been a dispatcher with the Paradise Valley Police Department for almost one year and has already been recognized on a national level for dedication to her profession.

On a recent call from a suicidal female Ms. Denning talked to the woman while getting officers on the way. In the conversation, she keyed-in on the fact that the caller had dogs she obviously cared for.

When things look bleak and officers were not on the scene yet, she asked the caller who would care for her dogs if she killed herself. This caused the woman to pause and she got her to wait for officers to arrive and help.

“In the beginning, the lady was angry and upset. She just wanted to be treated like a person, instead of having someone rattling off questions with no compassion,” said Ms. Denning in an April 6 phone interview. “She wanted to know my name so I said ‘My name is Samantha, what is your name?’”

“She wasn’t expecting me to say that.”

This is one of many calls Ms. Denning has taken on a personal level to ensure the person gets the treatment and assistance they deserve. She said she thinks about her mother, 59, and how she would want her to be treated.

“I try to treat everyone with kindness,” Ms. Denning said. “I just try to think of the person when they are in a crisis.”

Ms. Denning always leaves the caller with a final statement: if the number we’ve found isn’t what you need, give me a call back.

Before working for the Town of Paradise Valley, Ms. Denning lived in northern California. She moved to Arizona to take the job as a dispatcher, a position she once held at 21-years-old in Maryland.

“I worked for a busy department, and took a lot of suicide calls in the five years I was a dispatcher there,” she said.

She has also worked in the medical field as a medical assistant and as a phlebotomists, drawing blood for the Red Cross; but being a dispatcher had always been a goal of Ms. Denning.

“When I was a kid, I used to watch ‘Rescue 911,’ it’s a show from the 90s and you would always hear the real 911 calls, and they would show what happened,” said Ms. Denning. “At the end, the dispatcher would meet the people and there would be a happy ending.”

This time, the happy ending is in Paradise Valley.

“It makes me feel good knowing that I helped her and made a difference,” she said. “Sometimes in this job you take a lot of negative calls and it feels nice when you make a difference.”

Ms. Denning, the mother to a 5-year-old son also enjoys reading and attending plays with her son.

Smart911 will name a national winner and four regional honorees during National Telecommunicators Week, April 11-15. The national winner will receive a donation of $1,000 to the charity of their choice, while regional honorees will receive a $500 donation to the charity of their choosing.

News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be reached by e-mail at mfittro@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MelissaFittro

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