By Audrey Fraizer
EMD Steven Kierstead was down the hall in dispatch working on the radio on Aug. 25 before figuring out the reason that he had been summoned to the briefing room.
“Truthfully, I didn’t think a whole lot about it until I walked around the corner,” said Kierstead, a city of Saco (Maine) Public Safety Communications Center dispatcher. “I looked in and realized what this might be about.”
Inside were several employees of the Saco Police Department as well as an award committee ready to do what they do best: present commendations based on nominations they receive from within the department.
The attention caught Kierstead off guard, especially since the incident, he soon discovered, had happened almost half a year ago. It took a few seconds for him to remember the call.
“I take so many medical calls I had almost forgotten about the call when I was actually able to go through a full birth with the parents,” said Kierstead, who has been a 9-1-1 dispatcher for 15 years. “It’s definitely a career highlight, but the award took me totally by surprise. I was shocked.”
The call came in early on Feb. 26. A woman from nearby Pine Ledge Terrace was in active labor and the father, her boyfriend, was not the least bit eager to offer assistance beyond watching for the ambulance to arrive.
“He was not anxious to help,” Kierstead said. “I let him know that he had no choice, and he ended up doing a fantastic job.”
The father-to-be’s subsequent actions and the baby’s successful delivery had a lot to do with, “Steve’s ability to stay calm himself and to project that calmness to the father,” according to the citation.
Kierstead credits his ability to set aside the father’s fairly colorful language in concern for the immediate task at hand and his co-anchor, Scott Nolette, who handled the radio dispatch while Kierstead relayed the instructions over the phone.
“Scott and I worked as a team,” Kierstead said. “He got the response going.”
The four-minute call yielded a healthy baby boy as Brian Langerman, the on-scene medic, later told Kierstead.
“He called when they arrived at the hospital,” Kierstead said. “We have a great bunch of people in Saco Public Safety. Everyone does their job really well.”
Kierstead is among the few dispatchers who wear a stork pin, his with a stork carrying a baby swaddled in a blue blanket. He said the delay in receiving the commendation had to do with the timing of the committee’s meeting dates.
Kierstead left a job in retail after he was recommended and hired for the emergency communications dispatch position. He genuinely enjoys coming to work, and after all these years, he can’t imagine doing anything else.
It’s the first award he has received with Saco Public Safety, and he’s truly not looking to add to it anytime soon.
“The award was humbling and overwhelming, but, honestly, the call ended perfectly, and that was good enough for me,” Kierstead said. “Every one of us here would have done the same thing. I was just lucky enough to be the one answering.”
The Saco Public Safety Communications Center handles over 28,000 calls for service every year. E9-1-1 calls are transferred to Saco from a nearby Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), and public safety services are dispatched as needed to emergencies. This center also handles numerous seven-digit lines covering the city’s police, fire, and rescue departments.
The center was established in 1999 at the Saco Police Department from a consolidation of police and fire department dispatchers. There are 11 dispatchers. The city of Saco has an area of 38.5 square miles and a population of nearly 19,000.