The woman who oversaw the creation of 911 emergency services in the Cayman Islands more than a decade ago is leaving for a new position in the Turks and Caicos Islands at the end of March.
Emergency Communications Manager Juliette Gooding, a native of Barbados who has lived in Cayman for the past 22 years, said she hopes to eventually return here after what could be a three- to five-year stint in Turks helping that country establish its own 911 service.
Ms Gooding said the job represents a good opportunity, but said she’s sad to leave the service that she considers ‘her baby.’
‘To me, it is not a job…it is a passion,’ she said. ‘It’s just a pleasure being able to help people, not just myself, but as a department.’
When Ms. Gooding started the job in 1996 moving over from the Department of Education, residents were still making direct calls to police, fire and ambulance services in emergencies. People could either call the seven digit number of the police, fire or ambulance station or they could call 555, 500, or 511, depending on which department they wanted to reach.
Ms Gooding said even she does not remember which number belonged to which emergency service.
‘If you were calling an ambulance, the crew had to stay on the phone and take down all your information before responding to the call,’ she said.
The service has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, moving from the Central Police Station to a much more modern facility on the fifth floor of the Citrus Grove complex.
‘It’s my baby, and now it’s becoming an adult,’ she said.
There’s still some room for improvement. Ms Gooding said the current emergency centre only has four positions for call takers who also have to dispatch the various services.
‘It’s serving its purpose, but when four people are at the work stations and they’re training people it gets crowded in there,’ she said.
Government has discussed moving the 911 operation into a purpose-built facility somewhere in George Town, however Ms Gooding said it’s her understanding that facility will not be in the new government office project.
Ms Gooding said as far as 911 staff, she’s confident Cayman has qualified people to take over once she’s gone. Her replacement has not been named.
Her job in Turks and Caicos will be much the same, setting up a 911 system to serve all three emergency services. However, Ms Gooding said she does not want to manage that service as she has in Cayman.
‘The contract is for five years if need be, but somehow I don’t think it will be that long,’ she said. ‘My home is here, my son is away at school, but he always wants to come back to Cayman. Home for him is here.’