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St. Louis County Presents 911 Lifesaver Award

Categories: 2007 Press Releases | Author: SuperUser Account | Posted: 4/9/2007 | Views: 22929
April 6, 2007

Contact:  Sheriff Ross Litman, St. Louis County Sheriff, 218-726-2355





     In recognition of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, April 8 - 14, which honors those persons who perform call-taking, dispatching, and other duties for public safety communications departments, the St. Louis County Board will present its annual 9-1-1 Lifesaver Award on Tuesday, April 10, 2006 at 9:30 AM at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth, 100 N. 5th Avenue West, County Board Room, 2nd Floor. 


     Since 1993, St. Louis County has annually recognized the efforts of those individuals who have worked together, often compromising their own safety, to save the life of another person or persons.  Not only does the 9-1-1 Lifesaver Award honor those worthy of such recognition, but it provides information to the public on how the 9‑1‑1 system works.  Three 2006 awards will be presented at Tuesday’s ceremony.



2006 Life Saver Award

Suzanne Hill

Emergency Communications Specialist


     When veteran Emergency Communications Specialist Suzanne Hill answered a 9-1-1 call in the fall of 2006, little did she know she would spend the next 20 minutes pleading with a young man not to take his own life. 


     “Why do you have a gun?” she asked.   “Because I am going to blow my brains out,” he replied.   Hill spent the next several minutes explaining to the caller that he must consider alternatives to shooting himself and that she did not want anyone to be hurt.  “Please put the gun down,” Hill said.  To which he firmly replied.  “I don’t want to put the gun down.” 


     Next, Hill heard a dial tone.  Her caller had hung up.  Quickly, she dialed back.  Fortunately, he picked up the phone.  “This is Sue.  Why did you hang up on me?” she pleads.  “I didn’t mean to.  I’m sorry.”  This time, she heard in his voice, that of a person crying out for help.  She had developed a rapport.  He began to trust her. 


     Within a few more minutes, Hill’s gentle, repetitive persistence paid off.  She was successful in convincing him to walk away from the gun and come out of his residence where he was met by law enforcement officers who transported him to a medical facility where he was able to receive the professional help he needed.


     St. Louis County 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Specialists answer numerous suicide threat calls every year.  Not all of them have a similar outcome.  Such calls are charged with emotion and instability and have a potential to quickly become volatile.   Suzanne Hill’s ability to connect with this gentleman was directly related to maintaining the safety of the caller, any family members or friends that may have been near him, and those public safety responders who came to assist.  Congratulations, Sue.



Life Saver Award

John Asuma


     On July 27, 2006 at approximately 6:00 PM, John Asuma noticed smoke in the air.  He got in his car and followed it to the home of one his neighbors.  No one answered the door, so he walked back toward the field that appeared to be burning.  There he was met by the

homeowner’s young grand daughter who indicated her grandfather was in the fire. 


     Asuma scanned the burning field, calling for his neighbor by name.  He noticed a shovel

emerge in the air from the smoke and flames.  He ran to that spot and found his neighbor attempting to roll out of the fire.  Asuma quickly pulled him from the flames safely to a trail adjacent to the burning field.  Observing the victim had suffered burns to both arms and to his face, in addition to losing his prosthetic leg, Asuma quickly drove home and directed his daughter to call 9-1-1.  He then returned to the scene to remain with his neighbor until fire and medical personnel arrived to assist. 


     Had it not been for the quick actions of John Asuma, his neighbor, who had become overcome with smoke and heat while trying to contain a brush fire that “got away” from him may have perished in the fire.  Congratulations, John.



Life Saver Award

Ely Fire Department


     In the chilly early morning hours of September 13, 2006, the Ely Fire Department was awakened to the sound of their paging tones.  A downed aircraft in the vicinity of the Ely Municipal Airport was transmitting an electronic satellite signal.  Nineteen Fire Department members responded to the airport where they were summoned to the far end of the airstrip.  It was from here, that airport personnel had just moments before heard the pilot’s cries for help. 


    Chief Louis Gerzin assumed command.  At 1:30 AM Ely fire fighters commenced an extensive coordinated grid search of the area, working their way on foot through a wooded area too thick for ATVs.  The terrain was swampy, contained both ridges and low lands and was further complicated having been victimized by the infamous 1999 “Blowdown”.   The pilot was located 45 minutes later, approximately 1500 feet away from the end of the air strip and the event staging area.  Although cold, he was conscious and in relatively good spirits.  He had crashed several hours earlier and had initially been unable to set off his emergency beacon.


       Ely fire fighters faced additional challenges, however.  An area would need to be cleared to load the patient onto a backboard.  He was suffering from a badly bruised leg which contained shrapnel from injuries he had sustained in the Korean War.  Weighing more than 350 pounds, he would need to be carried back to the staging area. 


     After an hour, the injured pilot was secured on a backboard and Ely fire fighters divided into three teams of six.  They alternated carrying their patient “bucket brigade style” in fifty foot intervals for more than an hour, including over two challenging ridges and two nasty low lands until they reached the staging area.   It was there the Ely Ambulance waited and transported the patient to the Ely Hospital at 5:00 AM.   


      In addition to the assistance of EMS personnel from the Ely Ambulance Service, Office John Lahtonen of the Ely Police Department actively participated with the fire fighters in the search and rescue operation.  


      Congratulations and thanks to the Ely Fire Department for an extraordinary team effort.





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