In her role as a communications operator for the last 12 years, Joanna Jenkins has fielded countless calls for help.
None, she believes, compares with the urgent appeal for assistance she received on April 3, 2013.
At 6.19 a.m. that morning, a distraught young girl called 9-1-1, saying there was blood and an ambulance was required. The girl, however, hung up as Jenkins was trying to transfer the call to Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
The girl called back a few minutes later, indicating her mother had killed her father.
“That call will remain with me, probably, for the rest of my career because this was a 10-year-old girl who was trying to maintain her composure and get help for her daddy,” said Jenkins, who was honoured with the Toronto Police Communicator of the Year Award on April 15, alongside colleagues from EMS and Toronto Fire. “Her mother and grandmother were there but she was the only one who was calm enough to attempt to get help. She was so mature on what will probably be the most chaotic day in her life.”
The man survived stab wounds to the chest.
Operational Support Services Director Kristine Kijewski made the presentation to Jenkins at the third annual Toronto Emergency Communicators Awards ceremony, held during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.
The event took place at Toronto Fire EMS headquarters.
“Through effective questioning and her composed manner, Joanna was able to ascertain that the child thought her mommy had killed her daddy,” said Kijewski. “She continued to gently but persistently probe for the necessary information, while keeping in mind the safety of the parties in the residence as well as the attending emergency services personnel.
“Her actions embody the Toronto Police Service core values of respect, reliability, integrity and teamwork and this call is just one example of the high-calibre performance she routinely delivers.”
That call will remain with me, probably, for the rest of my career because this was a 10-year-old girl who was trying to maintain her composure and get help for her daddy
Toronto Fire Deputy Chief Darrell Reid presented their Communicator of the Year to Jessica Norquay. During the ice storm in December 2013, Norquay handled over 500 separate events including three two-alarm fires, a Firefighter Mayday incident, and an evacuation of an entire senior citizens residence to a City of Toronto warming centre.
EMS Chief Paul Raftis presented Communicator of the year to Norm Riviera who was recognized for his response to the winter ice storm, working sixteen hours to help his colleagues and helping a father to deliver his new baby by giving clear instructions over the phone.
Toronto Police Communications Services unit commander Dion Evelyn and Inspector Bernadette Button were on hand to congratulate Jenkins on her award.
“What Joanna has demonstrated through her efforts over the years is the fact that we need people like her,” Evelyn said. “You don’t choose this job. It chooses you and she exemplifies that.”
Button said Jenkins represents the nearly 230 communicators who provide an often-lifesaving link between emergency services and the public.
“I think it’s wonderful to see them recognized for the important work they do,” she added. “They play a critical role in ensuring that officers and citizens get the crucial information they need.”
Jenkins joined the Service in 2002, after working in the North York General Hospital emergency department.
“It’s nice to be recognized for something I enjoy doing,” she said. “This job is appealing because I love to help people.”