911 operator lauded for lifesaving efforts

During her 17 years at the Department of Public Safety Communications, Chelsea Blake has handled various roles, but her recent efforts to talk an injured man through driving himself to the hospital, earned her unprecedented judicial praise.

“My team and I, we’ve heard it all,” said Blake. “We have delivered babies over that phone, restarted hearts over that phone, we are the first of the first responders.”

Her diligent and professional work caught the eye of acting Grand Court Justice Roger Chapple, who, while returning a verdict in a wounding case, commended Blake for her exceptional service.

“I cannot leave this case without mentioning and drawing attention to the dedication to duty of the emergency services operator who handled the 911 call…,” wrote Chapple in his official judgment.

The incident in question occurred shortly after 3pm on 24 Oct. 2020, when a man called the 911 emergency dispatch centre to report he had been chopped in the head twice with a hatchet and was in the process of driving himself to the hospital.

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During the drive, the victim had his T-shirt in one hand trying to stem the blood flow, while driving and talking to Blake.

“It is clear from what he was saying that he was concerned about losing consciousness,” wrote Chapple, who noted in that state, the victim posed a danger to himself and the public.

“Recognising those dangers, as she clearly did, the operator made sure that [the victim] remained on the line until she was satisfied that he had arrived safely and without incident at the hospital,” added Chapple.

Chelsea Blake said she is appreciative for the recognition of her work as a 911 operator. Photo Taneos Ramsay.

During the 15-minute call, Blake was in constant communication with the driver. She monitored his health and consciousness, helping to keep him focussed on the road, while managing his anger at his attacker.

“The training here is very rigorous,” said Blake. “No two calls are the same, and if you put all the moving parts together you end up focussing on the big picture, which is keeping your caller safe and other members of the public safe.”

Blake said her goal is to treat all her callers with the same degree of care and compassion, so for her it was just another day on the job.

“I don’t really remember the call,” she said. “Because I have had to do so many calls of a similar nature. However, I am still grateful that someone appreciates my work, because this can sometimes be a thankless job.”

“No one who has listened to the audio recording of that call could fail to be impressed, as I was, by the calm and professional way in which the operator handled [the victim],” wrote Chapple. “She was appropriate, compassionate and concerned, but firm and authoritative when required. I commend her for her conduct, her skill and professionalism. She is a credit to the emergency services and deserves the gratitude of the community.”

Julian Lewis, director of the DPSC, noted that most people who choose a career of public safety as a dispatch operator do so knowing they might never truly be recognised for their efforts. But it’s a choice they willingly make, while still giving all their effort, he said.

“[Chelsea] is actually a major part of our training team, so this just demonstrates that we have the right people providing the foundation for… preparing the next generation of young people to do public safety,” said Lewis.

Department of Public Safety Communications Julian Lewis. Photo Taneos Ramsay

He added, “I am absolutely ecstatic and elated to know that my team has been recognised by not just the public, but by the court, and that the record will stand that the team has been recognised for a stellar job.”

As a part of Chapple’s official judgment, the praise and commendation of Blake will be kept within the court’s registries for as long as the judicial system lasts.

It is a reality that is beginning to set in, said Blake, who also noted that, while she appreciates the recognition, for her it was just another day at work because she loves her job.

“I live and breathe for this job,” she said. “I just hope other young Caymanians will see or hear this story and want to do this job.”

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