New 911 director takes over

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AUBURN – The new director of the Lewiston-Auburn 911 Communication Center is aware of one thing above all: This is not your father’s emergency dispatch center.

Her name is Phyllis Gamache Jensen and she officially took over Monday. She has a rich background in emergency communications – she last served as communications director for the Sagadahoc County Regional Communications Center – but Jensen knows she will never be able to simply glide. Not in this profession, where new technology can become obsolete almost overnight.

“It’s an evolutionary field,” she said.

For example, in the past, children were taught the most simple way to call for help. They were told to pick up a telephone and dial 911. But even that elementary process is undergoing change.

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“Younger kids would never think of picking up an old-fashioned, hard-wired phone and calling 911,” Jensen said.

These days, emergency dispatch centers have to be ready to receive alternative calls for help, such as through text-messaging and similar technology young people are most comfortable with. In the next generation of emergency call handling, dispatchers will have to be ready to receive photographs taken by people with cell phones at the scene of a crash or crime.

Then there are services like OnStar, an in-vehicle service that can send out a call for help when the driver is not able to. But OnStar and services like it don’t just send out a simple scream for help. They provide a mind-boggling array of details: Is the vehicle upright? How much gas is in the tank? And so on, every detail, big or small, that might help rescuers more efficiently respond.

“All of that info is coming to a 911 center near you,” Jensen said.

For now, she is just settling into a new office and a new city. She is taking over as director for Andrew D’Eramo, who resigned at the end of June.

“I’ve got to get my feet wet,” Jensen said Wednesday. “I’ve got to find out what’s unique to Lewiston-Auburn – what’s working and what’s not.”

The types of services she will oversee here are largely the same as those in Sagadahoc County, where she had served as director since 2006. The difference is call volume, she said. It’s much larger here in the Twin Cities.

A graduate of Brunswick High School, Jensen is a retired Coast Guard veteran and holds two communications specialties. She is married to a Bath police officer.

She served from April 1984 to September 2004 as a telecommunications specialist in Los Angeles and San Francisco, a position that required top secret security clearance.

While there, she oversaw a training program of newly assigned radiomen and ongoing technical education and quality control for a crew of more than 40 men and women. She petitioned for and was granted permission to switch to public affairs specialist in 1992. She retired from the service as a chief public affairs specialist.

mlaflamme@sunjournal.com

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