Local firefighter, 911 dispatcher honored with statewide award
As a 911 dispatcher, Gregory Tietmeyer is often the first person to hear about an emergency, whether it’s a lost wallet or a life-threatening accident. And his quick response and handling of an emergency situation at Rehoboth Beach Police Department last year earned him the Delaware Telecommunicator of the Year award.
Dispatchers in Rehoboth handle all emergency calls for the Rehoboth Fire District, which stretches from the Indian River Inlet to Route 24 near Angola, and the one-mile police jurisdiction.
Tietmeyer was one of two dispatchers working July 8, 2011, at 1:41 a.m., when he received a call regarding two people trapped in a car that had caught fire. While dispatching and organizing emergency rescuers, Tietmeyer remained on the phone with the caller, a person who had come upon the vehicle collision near Angola.
As a member of Millville Volunteer Fire Company, Tietmeyer knew the hazards of vehicle fires, from gasoline to broken glass. From his post in Rehoboth, he had to keep the caller safe while offering suggestions on how to help the victims on the scene.
“We go through training to handle different things, but being a part of the fire company helped me out a lot with this one,” he said. “It’s just common-sense stuff: Is there a house nearby? Get a hose, just try to do whatever you can, and try to keep the people safe inside, with the whole engine compartment filling up with fire.”
Police, paramedics and firefighters soon arrived, and the motorists were rescued.
Because the accident was at the edge of the fire jurisdiction, emergency response time was five or 10 minutes – considered a comparatively long time, especially for Tietmeyer, whose own instinct is to help.
“I wanted to be there,” he said. “That’s one of the instincts as a firefighter. You want to be there to help get them out of the car.
“Sometimes you feel helpless, but you’re doing all you can, trying to walk them through what they should be doing, whether medical CPR or keeping themselves safe. Every call’s different. No call is the same.”
Although emergency service is dangerous and stressful, it runs in Tietmeyer’s family. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather have served.
“I like to help people,” said Tietmeyer. “How do you explain it? First of all, helping people, then figuring things out on your own. Every day’s a challenge, because everything is different.”
Tietmeyer has volunteered in Millville for 12 years and has worked in Rehoboth for nearly seven years. He won Delaware Telecommunicator of the Year in 2007, as well.
“We’re very excited. We’re very proud of him at Rehoboth Police Department,” said Chief Keith Banks. “He works very hard, and he’s committed to it. We have a total of nine dispatchers, and they all do a great job.”
Tietmeyer said he was surprised to win the award.
The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International, Mid-Eastern Chapter, honored public safety officers in Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C., at a luncheon on April 12., at which Tietmeyer was presented with his award.
“I’m proud to represent the Rehoboth Police Department as a dispatcher,” said Tietmeyer, who said telecommunicators can be sometimes overlooked. “But it feels good to be appreciated... I’m happy for the award. It’s a good department.”