Peters said she received assistance from fellow operators and experts who scribbled suggestions as she talked. At times, she was just winging it. "I told him to think about his kids," the South Los Angeles mother of two said. "That they'll blame themselves if you kill yourself.
"You just think of anything to say."
Peters, a Loyola Marymount University graduate, has worked for more than six years as a civilian dispatcher for the Los Angeles Police Department. She took the job in the subbasement of City Hall after being laid off from her post as a Delta Airlines reservation clerk.
The transition from flight information to homicides and heart attacks was dizzying at first.
"When you hear gunfire," Peters said, "you feel so helpless. You broadcast it as fast as you can, but there's nothing else you can do."
Not that every situation is life-or-death. With more than 100 calls per shift, many are from cranks or are not actual emergencies.
"Saturday nights, everyone has a party and some people think it's Mayberry RFD and the police can stop every loud party," she said. "They forget Los Angeles extends from the harbor to the foothills."
"Or people call and say, 'My son is outside and won't come in.' I ask, 'What do you want the police to do?' "
Peters says she deals with stress by viewing herself as a single player on a large team. "This is my job and I do it--it's always fourth-and-goal."
The cog-in-a-machine approach extends to the results.
"You can't be overly curious in this job," she said. "You help people and you never really hear the outcome of what happens."
In recent months, Peters, who had initially dreamed of becoming a teacher ("It didn't pay enough to pay off my student loans"), has served as an instructor for the department's large crop of trainees. In the past year, there has been nearly 70% turnover in the 500-employee LAPD communications division, and police officials admit it has led to some slowdowns in dispatches with officers in the field.
The new employees are needed, officials say, because of an LAPD program to free more sworn officers for patrol duties. Peters is one of many veteran 911 operators who recently began serving in above-ground LAPD offices--in her case, the Southeast Division--handling phone calls that were previously taken by police.
Peters says her performance award is gratifying because it spotlights the level of service that 911 operators provide.
"You hear all the hoopla over 911--and there's no excuse for rudeness," she said. "But it's nice to know I can show it's not always like that--that this is the way it usually is.
"My motto is, 'Give the people the same respect I deserve.' "
As for the relative lack of public recognition, Peters shows no jealously or disdain for better-known performers, even those who play the role of killers as she toils anonymously attempting to save lives.
"I have respect for the job entertainers do," she said. "People get enjoyment out of it. I loved 'Forrest Gump.' In fact, I was upset that 'Interview With a Vampire' didn't get recognized."