1. What is your name, title and number of years at FDNY? Where are you currently assigned, and what are your work-related responsibilities?
My name is Alisha Smith. I am a fire alarm dispatcher and have been with the Department for 14 years. I’m currently assigned to the quality assurance department, which is technically under fire dispatch. I monitor emergency calls and grade them. Before my current role, I spent 12 years receiving dispatch calls.
2. What called you to a life of public service at FDNY?
My late mom saw a posting online for a job and printed out the application. She asked me to fill out the application, and I said, “What is it for?” “The Fire Department,” she replied. I didn’t think that I was qualified, but she insisted that I complete and submit the application. She even made me get a stamp and drop it in the mail. The rest is history. Fast forward to today, and now I’m a mom. This job has afforded us a better, more purpose-centered life. I’ve sacrificed a lot, but it’s been worth it to support myself and my family.
3. Can you share one of your most memorable moments while working at FDNY?
There was a moment where we received a call from a woman whose high-rise apartment was on fire and she was trapped. The woman was crying, which encouraged me to be sensitive with her. Something within me changed. With the help of the fellow dispatchers and on-site commander, I coached the woman and helped her stay calm. We talked about everything under the sun, speaking for about 45 minutes. I really wanted to assist her to remain as calm and occupied as possible, to help give time for the firefighters to handle the situation. Situations like this happen to me and my team members regularly, but for others, these calls represent someone’s worst day.
4. What does “We Are FDNY” mean to you?
“We Are FDNY” reinforces that we are a family. It shows that we all can belong and be included here. When I wear my uniform outside, folks stop and say hello. It comes with a certain amount of respect and reverence despite being a challenging job [which I love]. The folks here have become my family, and I feel like I’ve been able to endure through life because they’re by my side. The environment here is great, and I feel blessed to be here.
5. What is your superpower (best quality or skill)?
My superpower is my knowledge of the City and the inner workings of the boroughs. It could be our subway system, highways, parks, landmarks—I can navigate almost anything and help people get anywhere in New York City.
6. How does your role support the public safety mission of the FDNY?
We are the first, first responders. We get calls before they even get to the firehouse. Our job is to filter through the information reported and make sure it’s related to the firefighters so that they can do their job correctly and efficiently. I feel like we are the backbone of emergency operations.