EMD Erica Martin is direct, matter of fact, sticks to the scripted protocol, and keeps her emotions in check. She’s also great at practicing what she preaches.
“I help as best I can and, when the call ends, the rest is up to EMS,” said Martin, Polk County Sheriff’s Office communication center, Winter Haven, Fla. “I take a deep breath and go on to the next call. There are just some things we can’t change.”
Martin’s calmness extends to the Florida Sheriff’s Association Dispatcher of the Year award she received Feb. 2. In fact, she was kind of mystified when told about her nomination that was based on performance and exemplified by two calls (described later in the story).
Martin insists she did nothing out of the ordinary or, at least, nothing that should have singled her out for an award.
“I was surprised by the award,” said Martin, who was in customer service for a phone company prior to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office communication center. “No one here would have done anything differently.”
Martin’s former supervisor, David Lambert, attributed the recognition to the great job she did following the protocol, the short span of time in which the two incidents occurred, and her then-relatively short tenure at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office; she was hired in July 2013, and the two incidents happened during the first three months in 2015.
“Erica doesn’t get rattled, and she’s very levelheaded,” said Lambert, who is now a full-time EMD/EFD Instructor with PDC. He was Martin’s EMD Instructor at Polk County when he worked at the sheriff’s office.
“You get a pretty good feeling of how people will do when you teach,” Lambert said. “Erica was a good student right from the start, and I knew right away she would be a good calltaker as well as a good trainer. She knew what she was doing.”
The incidents garnering Martin’s nomination are the calls that some might spend an entire career without receiving: a baby delivery and a CPR save, along with the opportunity to meet the people involved (also highly unusual).
The baby was delivered by “probably the calmest person” Martin had ever talked to during any sort of emergency, despite the trepidation you might expect from a father-to-be; he had pulled over on the side of the road en route to the hospital.
“At this point, the baby was on his way, and he followed the instructions right down to tying off the umbilical cord,” Martin said. “Dad was great.”
Martin “met” the family over the phone when they later called the communication center to say “thank you.”
In the second incident, she relayed CPR instructions for close to 15 minutes after a young man had found his mother unconscious in the bathtub. Paramedics arriving on scene used an AED to restore the woman’s heart rhythm; they attributed the CPR compressions that produced adequate blood flow as key to her survival.
The two women—Martin and the survivor—later met at an American Heart Association event. “She cried; I cried,” Martin said.
The range of calls, the complexity of situations, and the unpredictability of what will happen next keep Martin at her best. She likes the fast pace and is not at all concerned about a repeat of events that could lead to a second award.
“I’m good,” she said. “It will be another busy year, and I’m good with that. I really didn’t realize that I’d like it this much.”