(4-16-22) At the Berrien County Board of Commissioners’ Meeting the morning of April 14th, 2022, eight 911 Dispatchers were honored for their service. Annually 911 operators from the County Emergency Communication Centers are invited to nominate their peers for consideration for the designation of 911 Telecommunicator of the Year. These anonymized nominations are considered by representatives from the County’s 911 Advisory Committee. The presentation was made by Jack Fisher, Executive Director of Medic 1 Ambulance and Chair of the Berrien County 911 Advisory Committee.

from left: 911 Advisory Committee Chairperson Jack Fisher, Telecommunicator of the Year Kristina Burks, Board of Commissioners Chairperson Mac Elliott, Berrien County Public Safety Communication Center Director Caitlin Sampsell

The award is presented during National 911 Public-Safety Telecommunicators Week, which is annually recognized in April. 911 Telecommunicators are the Call-takers and Dispatchers, known as the “first first responders” for their integral role in the response to an emergency call, providing prearrival instructions over the phone, and mobilizing and coordinating the field response.

The award for Telecommunicator of the Year was presented to Berrien County Supervisor Kristina Burks. She was recognized for her care for her co-workers and dedication to providing public-safety services to the community and support to field responders, always with safety in mind. Burks’s role as lead dispatcher during a vehicle pursuit highlighted her forward thinking and thoroughness in her duties.

The 911 Advisory Committee also honored nominee and former Berrien County Call-taker Doris Horton, who passed away earlier this year. During her 11.5 year career with Berrien County 911 she answered thousands of calls, handling difficult situations daily, and comforting callers when they were having the worst day of their lives. Her handling of a call made by a visiting child who didn’t know his location and whose parent was missing was highlighted. Horton’s family shared that she loved her job, helping people, and the people she worked with.

Also recognized were nominees Niles Dispatcher Chelsea Byrd, and Berrien County Dispatchers Cassie Gambrel, Cindy Napier, Christina Grabowski, Christy Casto, and Phaedra Adams.

Berrien County Public-Safety Communication Center Director Caitlin Sampsell

“This year’s nominations for Telecommunicator of the Year are evidence of the amazing, caring, and hard-working 911 telecommunicators in Berrien County. It is a joy to celebrate these first responders as they applaud each other’s contributions and accomplishments. They truly impact and save lives every day and I cannot thank them enough for the work that they do.”

If you think you have what it takes to provide 911 public-safety services to your community, Berrien County Public-Safety Communication Center encourages you to seek out opportunities and apply.


Tips for Calling 9-1-1
Know Your Location: Wireless calls to 911 provide location information, but it is not specific to your exact location in most instances. Be prepared to provide detailed location information on where you are so that help can get to you as quickly as possible. If you’re not sure of the address, find a piece of mail, look at a mailbox, give close cross streets and a description of the location and/or provide landmarks.

Call If You Can, Text If You Can’t: Text-to-911 service is available in an increasing number of communities around the country, including Berrien County. The service benefits individuals who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or in a situation where they cannot speak and make a voice call. However, a traditional voice call, if possible, is still the best way to reach emergency services.

Stay Calm and Don’t Hang Up: Tell the call-taker exactly what happened. Answer the call-taker’s questions succinctly to the best of your ability. He or she will ask you questions in order to provide information to responders and to determine what you need to do before help arrives. Call-takers will assist you in providing medical attention to patients, such as CPR instructions, before responders arrive.
Stay on the line until you are instructed to do otherwise so that you can provide any necessary information or assistance to the 911 call-taker. Even if you accidentally call 911, don’t hang up. Inform the call-taker that you dialed accidentally and that there is no emergency.

Use 911 For Emergencies: If you need police but do not have an emergency please call a non-emergency number so that the 911 lines remain open for callers with life-threatening emergencies. The Berrien County Public-Safety Communication Center can be reached at 269-983-3060; Niles City Dispatch can be reached at 269-683-1313; Van Buren County Central Dispatch can be reached at 269-657-3101; Cass County Dispatch can be reached at 269-445-1205. Many police departments’ phone lines also ring into the appropriate Dispatch Center after hours, or if they do not have staff in the office.