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October 25, 2010

Blind Dispatcher Recognized for Long-Time Contributions to Emergency Services

By Mini Swamy, TMCnet Contributor

PlantCML, an EADS (News - Alert) North America Company and a pioneer in mission-critical communications that provides key technologies for public safety, federal and corporate markets, has recognized the outstanding and extraordinary service of dispatcher, Jerry Sprouse, whose services have been rendered more remarkable because of the true courage shown by him but also because of his contributions to his agency in New Kent, Vancouver, despite being blind.

Sprouse lost his eyesight when he was a teenager, but this didn't deter him from advancing in his career. He has been with the Sheriff's Office since 1979, and has progressively achieved many accolades in his more than 30-year career. Sprouse uses specially modified equipment, including a modified keyboard.

He first worked as a switchboard operator for interim sheriff Art Bowman, and later on for Sheriff F.W. Howard, since he took office. In 1981, he got an opportunity to serve as a dispatcher, when he filled in for a co-worker. From then on, he never looked back. He became a full time dispatcher, learned to answer emergency calls, teletype to state-run databases, perform computer-aided dispatch, learning and discovering, on the way, other responsibilities required for the job. All this culminated into the biggest achievement of his career when he worked solo from 1981 through 1992.

“I can't stress enough how everyone on our team has contributed to my success,” said Sprouse, adding that everyone had selflessly helped him to learn how to excel at his job and keep pace with the technology in so many ways.

The year 1982 brought some excitement into his life. A murder had been committed and single-handed, he managed to have all first responders on site in less than 20 minutes. He took a hiatus in 1999, during which he contemplated retirement, but returned after one year with a renewed resolve and vigor to work as a dispatcher, for he decided that he was still not ready for retirement.

“I hope to be here as long as I can, and I want everyone who has blindness as a handicap to know that they can contribute in many ways and have a productive life if given a bit of an opportunity like the kind I have been given. I am more grateful than I can ever express,” said Sprouse on his return. He further added that PlantCML (News - Alert) had been excellent to work with, and he owed his success to his colleagues, without whom nothing would have been possible.

Dave Rutan, CEO of PlantCML was equally complimentary and said that Sprouse's dedication and hard work were truly amazing. The New Kent County Sheriff's Office had a great team and they were proud to be their partner in helping Sprouse and the entire department save and protect lives. His peer in the department, Karen Johnson, called him “one of our greatest assets.” 

Mini Swamy is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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