February 24, 2014 Updated: February 24, 2014 at 7:35 pm
Eva Steadman has seen a lot of change since she joined the Colorado Springs Police Department in January 1980, a time when 911 calls were jotted down on 3-by-5 cards and filed by hand.
More than three decades later, she is hanging up her headset and retiring from her position as a 911 call dispatcher, hoping that she made a positive contribution to the Colorado Springs community.
"It has been such a fulfilling career; every dispatcher, including myself, want to help people," Steadman said.
Colorado Springs police issued a proclamation Monday to recognize Steadman's service and held a retirement ceremony in her honor.
"She deserves the appreciation of the Colorado Springs Police Department and the community for her dedication, loyalty, professionalism and accomplishments during her 34 years of service to the City of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Police Department," the proclamation says.
Steadman, 59, moved with her parents and grandparents from California to Colorado Springs in 1970.
She began her career with the police department in the records office and was transferred to the 911 call center in 1984, shortly after the system was computerized.
"At first it was police-related calls only, and we would alert fire and medical if the situation needed their support," Steadman said. "As we integrated fire and police and emergency medical services, the computerized system helped us get critical information to the first responders more quickly."
In 1994, the enhanced 911 system helped dispatchers and first responders make great strides in the way emergencies were handled, as the system pinpointed the address and phone number of callers so emergency crews could immediately be directed to their location.
"We would get the address right away and that made a huge difference, because as we were on the line with the caller, we could pass that information to police, fire and medical crews and they would be on their way," Steadman said.
Fast forward several years, when the advent of the cell phones complicated matters for first responders, because exact locations could not be identified by cell towers.
"That's where it got tricky and what I think has been the most challenging part of my job, because often the callers are distressed and it can be difficult to get them to tell call takers what their exact addresses are," Steadman said.
In 1997, an explosive device was found in evidence storage at the Police Operations Center, and Steadman was one of a handful of dispatch employees who insisted on remaining at their posts, the proclamation noted. Steadman remembered that day clearly, saying that her responsibilities outweighed the risk, and she trusted the police who were handling the investigation.
"Personally, I didn't feel that threatened," she said. "The device had been there who knows how long and it hadn't gone off, so knowing after the fact, I just wanted to get back to work."
Steadman may be retiring, but she shows no signs of slowing down. An avid hiker, she plans to keep exploring Colorado's outdoor spots, and traveling to one of her favorite places, Yellowstone National Park.
"I think I'm just ready to be off and do some things that I enjoy, catch up on things at home that need to be done," she said.