Britt: lifesaver, volunteer, award winner

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Back in the early 1990s, Roz Britt was manning the phones in the Suffolk Police Department’s dispatch office. She picked up one line, and heard the screams of a young woman, panicked that her new baby wasn’t breathing.

&uot;She said, ‘My baby is blue!’&uot; Britt said. &uot;I wished I could reach through the phone and help her.&uot; Perhaps remembering her own then-teenaged daughter, Britt told the woman how to perform CPR on the child.

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Too frantic to understand, the woman was unable to even attempt to resuscitate the newborn. Fortunately, a neighbor arrived, and followed Britt’s instructions, saving the youngster’s life. Later, a member of the medical staff told Britt that the youngster would have died if not for the dispatcher’s actions.

That’s definitely the most prevalent example of Britt’s helpful nature. But it’s far from the only one.

&uot;I love being in a position to help others,&uot; said Britt, who worked as a certified nurses’ assistant at the Autumn Care nursing home for 10 years before joining the police department in 1988.

She’s been the president of the department’s March of Dimes program for 15 years, and is a past president of its United Way event. She’s an advisor for the Explorer Post program, which helps high school students learn about what it means to be an officer. Last summer she helped raise money for school supplies for needy children, and is active in her church, Portsmouth’s Grove Baptist.

Back on Sept. 10, Britt, who became the department’s midnight shift (11 p.m.-7 a.m.) emergency communication supervisor in 2000, worked a 12-hour night. Just as she was about to head home, Citizens Alumni of Suffolk (CAS) president Donna Perry called and reminded Britt and her staff of the third annual CAS party the next afternoon at Coulborn Park. On just a few hours sleep, the group trudged to the celebration.

After the partiers chowed down, city councilman Dana Dickens stood before them to announced the Safety Officer of the Year award. He talked about how proud he was to give the award to someone who always helped out at work, a person who always shows up to work hard and gives 100 percent to their job.

In the audience, Britt was half-listening. &uot;I was pointing out other people that I thought would win,&uot; she said. &uot;I wasn’t paying it much mind.&uot;

That is, until seconds later; Dickens announced that Britt had just become the first person from the dispatch office to receive the award.

&uot;I was so shocked,&uot; she said. &uot;I’d never been so surprised. It showed that even if we’re out there working past midnight, people still watch and care about us.&uot; Amid the shouting and cheering, Britt received a plaque, a huge basket of goodies, and a trip to Colonial Williamsburg.

But perhaps she shouldn’t have been so surprised. If her midnight-shift staff had anything to do with it, Britt would get the award every year.

When Jean Smith’s father passed away suddenly in Sept. 2002, Britt and the department chaplain came to Smith’s home to give her the sad news. The next day, when Smith and her family went to make the funeral arrangements, Britt and staffer Beth Gayle came to Smith’s house and cleaned it up for the visitors.

&uot;They did a great job,&uot; said Smith, who’s been working at the department for 12 years. &uot;(The award) was well-deserved. She puts in a lot of extra time with the citizens of her community, and her fellow employees. She’s always been very big on helping others.&uot;

Though they’ve only been working together for nine years, Randy Bailey and Britt have been pals for 20.

&uot;She’s fair,&uot; he said. &uot;If we have something come up at the last minute, she’s there for us. She’s not a micromanager; she doesn’t look over your shoulder every five minutes. Teamwork is the biggest thing; if stuff hits the fan, she’s right there with us.&uot;