Steady Voice for Caller in Crisis

Communications Services
Communications Services Alarms Response
A few minutes before the end of her shift, Communicator Christine Moore received a call from a male indicating he was feeling suicidal.

“It was my last one and you never want that kind of call,” she said. “I could see my relief walking towards me and making eye contact. But I could tell something was really wrong with this caller and I had to remain on the line with him and figure it out.”

The caller told Moore he had a knife to his chest.

“I sensed this was a young man and he was just so sad,” she said. “Within the first minute, I could tell he was serious and there was a chance I was going to listen to him die while I was on the phone with him.”

By being able to connect with the troubled caller, Moore averted tragedy.

“I was on the phone with him for about 10 minutes,” she said. “His biggest concern was that I tell his mother about what had happened. He did not want her to find out any other way. So, I just kept telling him his mom would rather he be alive.”

The caller related that he had dropped out of school and did not know how to tell his parents what he had done.

“Basically, he felt he had disappointed them,” Moore pointed out. “He was just really upset and sad.”

When Constables Pilar Johnson and Jimmy Pham arrived on the scene about nine minutes after the call came in, the man was still holding the knife to his chest.

“He was seated on the ground under a tree in an open field area of a ravine,” said Johnson. “He was visibly upset, crying and explaining that he couldn’t live anymore as he was fearful of disappointing his family and being a failure. Though he maintained a grip on the knife pressed up against his chest, at no point was he aggressive or hostile towards us nor did he make any gestures indicating that he had any intention of harming anyone other than himself.”

The man advised police he had told his parents he would be attending class that day but he had dropped out of university.

The officers built a rapport with him and eventually got him to comply with their request to drop the knife. After being medically assessed, the man was taken to a psychiatric care facility for treatment.

Communications Operators like Christine are often referred to as ‘the most important person you will never see.' They are faced with life and death situations every day and respond with empathy and professionalism during what might be the most difficult day of someone’s life

Johnson said Moore played a huge role in saving the man’s life.

“When we got there, he was into crisis and very upset,” said the rookie officer. “The Communications Operator was able to keep him engaged until we arrived. He did express to us that she was very compassionate and kind.”

Moore is the recipient of this year’s Communicator of the Year Award.

Chief James Ramer made the presentation on April 19.
“Communications Operators like Christine are often referred to as ‘the most important person you will never see’,” he said. “They are faced with life and death situations every day and respond with empathy and professionalism during what might be the most difficult day of someone’s life.

“Christine is a wonderful example of a member who exemplified the Service’s core values. Since the beginning of her career in 2007, she has been recognized by her supervisors and received numerous commendations, thanks to her keen eye for detail and her ability to remain calm and confident during the management of dynamic events. She is a reliable, patient and professional employee who volunteers to train other Communications Operators and has been selected to be trained as one of her platoons Acting Supervisors.”

Sandra O’Sullivan nominated Moore for the award.

“During the entire duration of the call, she remained engaged and focused,” said O’Sullivan. “She continued to update the call with as much information as she could get from the caller. Her text entries were clear and concise. By using the rapport created with the caller, she was able to persuade him to accept help from the officers.”

Communications operators are a vital link between citizens needing urgent assistance and police, fire and medical personnel responding to calls for service. They are required to learn how to ask pertinent questions, give sound advice and process calls relating to a range of offences and incidents.

As a result, they must be attentive listeners, show good judgment and common sense, be critical thinkers and stay calm in a crisis.

“We take a lot of suicidal calls, but there was something about this one that stood out for me,” Moore said. “He broke my heart. He just seemed like a really good person who was having a rough time.”

She has been a Communications Operator for the past 15 years.

“I remember telling a neighbour I didn’t feel like I was really making any meaningful contributions in the job I had at the time and she asked if I had given any consideration to becoming a Communications Operator,” Moore, who daughter Breanne joined the TPS Communications team in 2020, said. “My response was ‘no and tell me more’. She used to be a dispatcher and I found what she had to say about the role interesting. I thought it would be more fulfilling than the job I was doing as a collections agent.”

Within a year of applying, Moore was hired.

“I absolutely love my job and I know I am making a difference sometimes,” she added.

Communications Services received 1,748,974 calls last year, with 1,101,970 dialed as 9-1-1 calls.

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