Sunday 8 December, 2019

Jamaican-American 911 operator honoured for saving life in Florida

A Jamaica-born veteran of the Broward County Sheriff Office (BSO) was honoured earlier this week for outstanding performance during the execution of her duties.

Charmaine Buckner, a 911 operator, was honoured by the Broward County Commission for the role she played in dispatching fire and police rescuers to save an infant in Pembroke Pines from drowning last year.   

She was one of two county 911 operators to receive the 2017 Tom Gallagher Memorial Public Safety Award as the Commission celebrates National 911 Education Month.

Buckner is a veteran of more than 17 years at the BSO. Born in Jamaica, she migrated to the US at five years old, and currently resides in Atlantis, Palm Beach County.

 She said she became a communications 911 Operator “by accident”. While working at the State Attorney office, she accompanied a friend to a job fair and was encouraged to apply for the job for which there were vacancies.

She applied, was interviewed, had background checks conducted, and was accepted to the Sheriff’s Academy where she underwent training. She has no regrets regarding her job, although it can be stressful and takes time away from her family.

“It’s a mentally challenging job, so it can be quite mentally tiring, but I cope by letting everything go at the end of the day, and by exercising. I try to get sufficient exercise to cope with the stress,” Buckner said.

Regarding her family life, the wife and mother of two said the long hours, normally 12-hour shifts, often takes away from time she would normally spend with her family on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. She ways she works most weekends, and in her almost 18-years on the job “I have had weekends off during three years.”

She says the most important thing about her job is it offers her an opportunity to “really help people.”

She encourages Caribbean-Americans to enter the profession if they care about helping people.

“Despite the long and demanding shifts, the pay and benefits, especially the pension plan are good, and the job is exciting and challenging,” she said.

Expressing humility, Buckner doesn’t regard the incident which played a role in her being honored as an act of bravery.

“I was just doing my job,” she said.

When the frantic caller called screaming about a child in danger of drowning, the caller hung up without identifying the address where the child was in danger, Buckner said.

She used the “longitude and latitude coordinates” of the call to identify the location that the call came from. By doing this she was able to quickly dispatch fire and police rescue to the location to save the child.

Buckner expressed great honour at being awarded by the County, after so many years on the job.

The other operator honoured for outstanding service, Erin Kafka works for the Coral Springs Police Department. She was recognised for the sense of calm she displayed during a 911 call she received during a deadly shooting incident at the Coral Spring Mall last November.

FEATURED PHOTO: Jamaican-American Charmaine Buckner (left) and Erin Kafka, 911 dispatchers, were honoured for their life-saving efforts.

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