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NOLA 911 Storm 6716
Behind-the-scenes responders show their depth of courage and compassion

On February 8, 2017, New Orleans was hit by an EF-3 tornado, the strongest the city has ever recorded. On that fateful day, wind speeds topped 150 miles per hour and nearly 700 structures were damaged across five parishes. More than 60 of those structures were completely destroyed. First responders from across the city—Police, Firefighters, and EMTs—mobilized to rescue individuals who were trapped in the storm’s wake. 

But they weren’t the first to take action. Behind the scenes, a group of 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers had been working tirelessly to field the flood of calls spurred by the sudden natural disaster. Their composure kept panicked citizens calm. Their expertise drew out the information police, firefighters and EMTs needed to locate and rescue the storm’s victims. And their compassion helped thousands of people get through some of the most terrifying moments of their lives.

 “In a split second you need to decide what you are going to do—whether you are going to leave or whether you are going to stay,” said La Cher Marshall, Floor Supervisor who was overseeing dispatch that day. “I work 9-1-1. I'm fully committed, 10 years. I'm not leaving. So, at that point, all I can do is make sure my family is okay. Once I made sure they were okay, my heart and everything goes to the citizens.”

“It was unbelievable how much damage it did in just that short period of time,” said Juana Green, Training Specialist. “And that's not something we deal with. We're not used to experiencing tornadoes.”

In a city known for its frequent hurricanes, the tornado that swept through the city that day was the first to hit the area since 2007, and the strongest ever recorded. Hundreds of structures were destroyed resulting in dozens of injuries, but thankfully no fatalities.

Managing the immediate aftermath, the hidden heroes at dispatch rose to the occasion and showed us what emergency call-takers do every day around the country, to keep both citizens and responders who are out in the field safe.

“All the high priority calls that you normally get in a week, I had them all in three hours,” said Tara Carter, EMS Dispatcher. “It was just like so much going on at one time, so you don't have time to think, you just have time to react. These people need help. I need to help them. That's my job.”

At Motorola Solutions, we are forever grateful to the telecommunicators who are behind the scenes of public safety, and committed to their jobs.  For more stories of first responders’ enormous courage and sacrifice, be sure to visit Motorola Solutions’ “Duty Runs Deep” page, and watch the video posted here.


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