Erika started serving the public at age 16 in Tennessee. She worked summers as a lifeguard and CPR/AED instructor. Erika graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with her Bachelors in Communications (Advertising / PR) in 2005 and worked at a couple of advertising/marketing agencies but the call of serving others lured her back to the aquatics industry. When the recession in 2008 laid off upper management, Erika packed up her belongings and two cats and drove to Central Florida and started as a lifeguard at Walt Disney World Resorts. She met her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Chris, and he encouraged her to apply as a 911 dispatcher in 2009. Erika had no idea what she was signing up for, but she knew it was a recession-proof career in the A/C.
Erika quickly realized that not everyone can do the frontline dispatcher job, and she fell in love with the challenge of multi-tasking, technology, and serving the public. Erika has worked various roles (law and fire rescue operator/dispatcher, Assistant Squad Lead, Training Coordinator, 911 Specialist) while learning as much as she can.
Erika traveled to IAED’s Navigator in New Orleans in 2017 and appreciated the value of attending various sessions and talking with other 911 professionals. When Erika attended the National Public Educators Forum Conference in 2018 and saw Adam Timm present, she decided to step out of her comfort zone with the goal of becoming a conference presenter one day.
Erika had her third daughter in October 2018, so it wasn’t until 2019 that she submitted her first call for papers for Navigator 2020, set to be held in Orlando. Erika’s session was not accepted and then later Navigator was canceled due to Covid. Erika decided to go back to the drawing board and focus on a session that she was passionate about. Her hard work paid off and she presented in Las Vegas for Navigator 2021. She submitted the same session for National APCO in San Antonio and was pleasantly surprised when her session was selected for an encore session.
Erika submitted again for Navigator 2022 in Nashville, but it was not accepted. Instead, IAED reached out to request the session be turned into a research poster, A Drowning Epidemic During a Global Pandemic. Erika is published in the Annals of Emergency Dispatch and Response and there is an IAED Journal article entitled, An Ounce of Prevention to Subvert Drowning Deaths, explaining the backstory for the research she conducted in Florida. During Covid, Erika once again turned to aquatics and became a swim instructor so she could give back to the community in a different way.
While attending conferences (mostly on PTO and paid out of pocket), Erika learned about scholarships for professional certifications and attending conferences.
Erika serves on several 911 non-profit committees at the local, state and national levels. She enjoys learning about different topics and bringing back ideas to her agency. She has implemented several new programs and ideas. Erika is a certified Child Passenger Safety technician and she enjoys educating the public about car seat safety, as well as 911 public education while recruiting new 911 dispatchers.
Erika and her husband run two family businesses, overnight rental properties in the Smoky Mountains, and a fleet of transit van rentals in Central Florida, respectively. The entire family stays busy training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Erika realizes the value of utilizing PTO to attend conferences and training sessions and she and Yasmen hope to mentor aspiring public safety conference presenters.
After all, the most important thing you can do is invest in yourself.