NICE Systems, the company that provides the technology for the Seguin Police Department’s 911 call center, has honored Assistant Communications Director Denera Garcia White with its “Finest Telecommunicator of the Year” award.
“I was just floored because I didn’t even know I’d been nominated,” said Garcia White, a 20-year veteran dispatcher.
In her nomination letter, Shannon Dukes, White’s supervisor, described how White’s bilingual skills had saved the life of a 4-year-old boy who was choking on a piece of a candy.
“I could literally feel the mother’s sense of relief when Denera explained that she spoke Spanish, and she walked the mother through step-by-step instructions to help her child while the ambulance was en route,” Dukes wrote.
In August of last year, a panic-stricken Nadia Beltran called 911 that White answered.
“I could tell in her voice something was really wrong,” White said.
Immediately, Beltran asked if White spoke Spanish so nothing would be lost in translation, especially in an emergency.
Beltran said she was surprised and grateful when White assured her she was bilingual and asked Beltran what could she do to help.
Recalling that day, White said it was “one of those uh-oh moments.”
“In my mind I was thinking, I really hope I can translate this for her to understand and to save the baby,” White said.
White said thankfully, she grew up in a bilingual home with a Spanish-speaking babysitter, and she made it her goal to improve her own Spanish.
Her supervisor said White now teaches intermediate Spanish to area dispatchers.
However, White said she found herself struggling with a few words as she tried to explain the Heimlich maneuver.
Beltran said she understood every word because the candy came out following White’s instructions.
“Thanks to her my son is perfectly fine and nothing serious happened,” Beltran said.
White said her only advice then was to throw away the candy, which the mother said she did right away.
Beltran said her son hasn’t touched any since then.
With Nicholas and her youngest son Adair at her side, Beltran had the opportunity to personally thank White at police headquarters more than year later.
But it was not White’s first life-saving call in Spanish.
She said several years ago, she explained how to do CPR on a one-week-old baby, who was later airlifted and survived.
White said she also is teaching other Seguin dispatchers how to speak Spanish. She also said the department subscribes to a language line that can connect dispatchers to people on stand-by who can speak a wide variety of languages.
She said for the public’s sake, it is their job to be prepared.
She said, “It doesn’t matter what they speak, what language they speak, they need help.”