Rachel Kearse's voice is the first many York County residents hear after trauma, on days that are often among the worst of their lives.
A wife leaning over her unresponsive husband who's in cardiac arrest. A man with a gun at his head. A motorist in a vehicle that's upside down, when not everyone in the car survived the crash. A child whose mother won't "wake up."
Kearse and 74 other York County 911 dispatchers take calls like this every day, back-to-back, for about 52 hours every week.
A day on these phones could take an emotional toll, but Kearse's colleagues said she maintains polite professionalism and sensitivity with callers while boosting the attitudes of her fellow dispatchers.
The six-year veteran dispatcher was named 2013 Telecommunicator of the Year on Thursday, with coworkers voting her the honor for her commitment to the public and excellence on the job.
Colleague T.J. Bradley said Kearse always seems upbeat, and her attitude is a positive influence in a place that could be cheerless.
"It's a very stressful situation, being on the dispatch floor and trying to help people," the 32-year-old Springettsbury Township man said. "It's hard to keep so positive when you're dealing with stress."
Keeping calm: Kearse has earned four commendation letters, given because members of the public or of the emergency response community lauded her work on the phone. Kearse and other dispatchers must remain on the line with callers until responders arrive.
The 38-year-old York City woman said she focuses on calming callers until crews can intervene.
"You never know what's going to be going on on the opposite end of the phone," she said. "It's tough to listen to family members (in cardiac arrest and other medical emergencies)."
She said all of the dispatchers deserve an award, and she's just naturally a positive person.
"We're all just used to it, and we can talk to each other about it," she said.
Also honored: Kearse was one of three county emergency employees to earn awards as part of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, April 13-19.
Michael Keiter, who has worked at the 911 center for 31 years, was named supervisor of the year. Brandon Blevins, a computer-aided dispatch specialist since October 2012, was named administrative/technical support person of the year.
— Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.