Meet Karen Hay: Hero behind the headset for over four decades

Karen Hay, VPD Communications Centre

Last week, staff gathered to celebrate Karen Hay, who has dedicated more than 45 years to emergency communications. This marks an incredible milestone not only for E-Comm, but for 9-1-1 in Vancouver.

Karen began her journey before 9-1-1 even existed. She was hired by Staff Sergeant Bill Marten of the Vancouver Police Department in 1977 to survey citizens using the phone book on whether a new 3-digit emergency number should be adopted in Vancouver.

Later that year, Karen joined the Vancouver Police Department as a civilian call taker, where operations looked a little different than they do today. When Karen first started in 1977, call takers had to hand-write physical cards and send them up conveyer belts to reach the dispatchers. Karen later went on to assist with the transition to the first Computer Aided Dispatch system, which is one of many ways 9-1-1 would evolve over the following four decades.

Karen was first seconded to E-Comm as a project training coordinator in 1996, where she helped to get the organization off the ground. When E-Comm opened its doors on June 8, 1999, Karen took one of the very first calls, becoming the first Civilian Central Dispatcher for the Vancouver Police Department.

Karen’s deep roots in 9-1-1 extend far beyond dispatch. Over the course of Karen’s career, she served as President for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), assisted in  emergency communications at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and designed training courses for the Police Records Information Management Environment (PRIME BC). Karen has supported teams across the entire organization including Voice Records, where she currently serves today.

Inspector Derksen presents Karen Hay with plaque from the Vancouver Police Department

Beyond her extensive experience, historical knowledge and technical expertise, what sets Karen apart is her genuine passion for helping people, which she demonstrates in everything that she pursues.

Karen never fails to put a smile on the faces of her colleagues and it is clear that even after 45+ years, she continues to find joy and fulfilment in her work.

Thank you to Karen Hay for the tremendous contribution you have made to the development of 9-1-1, the role of E-Comm and the enhancement of public safety through emergency communications. Your dedication to public safety has benefited communities across British Columbia.