Naselle woman is state's Telecommunicator of the Year

Judy Indermark has been honored as the state's top emergency dispatcher for her outstanding handling of a critical incident at sea in May 2004.<I><BR>STEPHANIE FRITTS photo<?I>

NASELLE - Judy Indermark of Naselle, a Pacific County E911 telecommunicator, has been named as Washington State Telecommunicator of the Year for her exemplary handling of a critical incident, according to Stephanie Fritts, director of the Pacific County Communications and Emergency Management Agency.

Indermark will be honored at the Washington State Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APSCO) Summer Training Conference, on June 22 in Wenatchee.

Fritts said each year, the Washington State Chapter of the APSCO selects people within the 911 industry who exemplify the quality of outstanding service to their community. Indermark's award this year "recognizes the telecommunicator who handled a critical incident in an exemplary manner that positively affected its outcome," Fritts said.

Fritts said the incident involved an overturned vessel 18 to 25 miles off the mouth of Willapa Bay in May 2004. Two men were sitting on the hull of the Boston whaler and calling for help on a cell phone. The callers reported the capsizing and said they had been in the water to retrieve the cell phone but were unable to provide an accurate location to the county dispatcher.

Fritts said Indermark kept the callers on the line, even though the phone was wet and the battery was rapidly declining. She was able to determine from the call that the boat was in the area where the Ms. Magoo, a charter boat from Westport had been fishing the previous day, then notified the Coast Guard, contacted Ocean Charters of Westport, then the skipper of the Ms. Magoo, who provided a location for a U.S. Coast Guard search of the area.

A Coast Guard helicopters flew over the overturned boat but couldn't locate the occupants. "At that point the cell phone battery was rapidly dying," Fritts said, "but the subjects reported having seen the helicopter."

Indermark again contacted the Coast Guard with the information and the helicopter made contact with the boat's occupants at 10:21 a.m.

"Judy worked hard at thinking of innovative ways to locate the calling parties," Fritts said. "She made every effort to call numerous businesses and government agencies, all while keeping the calling party on the line. Contacting private business and persisting in locating the skipper of the charter boat influenced the outcome of the incident. Judy could have assumed that pursing these avenues of information would not be successful, but she was willing to try anything in order to save the lives of the fishermen.

"In addition," Fritts said, "none of the responding agencies were agencies for whom Pacific County Communications provides dispatch services. Judy recognized this as a life and death situation and despite the fact that this was not within the agency's jurisdiction worked to save the lives of two individuals."

Fritts said it's "highly unusual" for fishermen in this type of circumstance to experience a positive outcome. "Judy created a difference, in that the fishermen's only line of contact was with her. Many telecommunicators see this type of activity as part and parcel of everyday business, and do not recognize themselves as doing anything outstanding, when in truth the work they do each day is critical to the lives of the residents of Pacific County and Washington State.

"I believe this is a particularly outstanding example of the handling of a critical incident and am gratified that Judy is being recognized as having gone beyond the call of duty in influencing a positive outcome for the parties involved," Fritts said.

This is not the first time a Pacific County telecommunicator has been honored as Washington State Telecommunicator of the Year, Fritts said. Larry Henneman received the same award in June of 1998.

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