An emergency dispatcher reminisces fondly about how she helped to deliver a baby phone-to-phone in 2008.
A life-saving call was made to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Emergency Dispatch Center in the early hours of July 5, 2008. Hattie Strrickland, a senior dispatcher at the time, answered the call. Sheila Conrad Garcia was in her Tampa bathroom, just a few days away from giving birth to her second child. Although the baby was due in a week, he didn’t hesitate and was ready for his grand entrance.
Hattie guided the baby’s dad through the entire process step-by-step, using a calm voice. The cries of a newborn baby could be heard within minutes of Hattie answering Sheila’s call. Everyone was relieved to hear that Sheila gave birth to Taylor without complications.
“It happened so quickly. Hattie wanted to know if we had any warm things for the baby. She suggested that Taylor be wrapped in a towel heated from the dryer, which she agreed to do. Sheila recalled how Hattie was so helpful.
Taylor weighed in at 8 pounds and was healthy. Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office officers arrived just a few minutes after Taylor was born. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue paramedics followed Taylor’s lead and cut his umbilical chord. Although Taylor and Sheila were both in good health, Taylor and Taylor were taken to a hospital nearby for routine treatment.
The whole family visited Hattie at work after Taylor and Sheila were discharged from the hospital. Hattie was honored by the opportunity to meet with her family, whom she had assisted through childbirth. Taylor was her greatest accomplishment.
This week of July was one to remember. There was the Fourth of July holiday which entailed the usual influx of fireworks related calls. Additionally, three babies were delivered by telephone through the County Emergency Dispatch Center.
Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Emergency Dispatch Center helps with the delivery of a few babies every year. The call center has a bulletin board that keeps track of the number of children who have been adopted into the 9-1-1 Stork Club. Five babies were delivered by dispatchers in Hillsborough County alone in 2022.
Hattie is still close to Taylor and Sheila 14 years after their first meeting. They enjoy outings to pick tomatoes and other seasonal vegetables almost every year. Hattie gave a presentation at Taylor’s elementary school to promote the Great American Teach In in 2016, at Sheila’s invitation.
Hattie still talks fondly about that unforgettable call in 2008. Although Taylor was her first child, she also had three others. But the bond she developed with Sheila was special. Hattie has been with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Emergency Dispatch Center for 17 years and is now the senior program manager. Hattie is responsible for training dispatchers, ensuring they complete their 6-week training academy, and getting the certifications that they need.
Hattie was asked about the qualities that make a good emergency dispatcher. She said “patience, professionalism and the ability to thrive under pressure.”
Sometimes, the work of emergency dispatchers can be very stressful. Their vital service to callers can often save lives and make a difference in their lives. Hattie felt a genuine fulfillment in her work when reflecting on her career. You can sense the energy rising in the room when the call center is busy. It is very satisfying to see dispatchers respond with energy and rise to the occasion.
Visit this site if you’re interested in emergency dispatcher or other public service career. Hillsborough County Jobs Page For more information and resources.
Photo courtesy Hattie Stricland. Hattie Strickland was a presenter at Taylor Garcia’s elementary school during a Great American Teach In event in 2016.