At just 24 years old, Priscilla Whitaker has plenty of life experience to help her hold her own against the challenges of being a Firefighter and Paramedic. Whitaker is just the third female firefighter to join the Georgetown Fire Department and she is the first female Firefighter/Paramedic in the City’s ranks.
Before coming to Georgetown, she grew up as a “Navy brat” and moved several times, literally, from coast to coast. She moved to Texas with her mom and younger sister and although she researched the fire departments in several Central Texas municipalities, she found Georgetown to be just as advertised, a great city with a lot of growth potential. “Now that I’ve gone through the academy,” she says, “I see the way the community here really embraces first responders and it’s great to be a part of the brotherhood in the department.”
Although it’s not the career she planned from childhood—her younger self wanted to be an archaeologist—her dad encouraged her to attend a community college to get a professional certification that would help put her through college and the EMT course caught her eye.
“I fell in love with it and realized it was the perfect fit for me. As an EMT I found that I loved the idea of ‘rescue’ and the excitement of getting calls. Many departments are combining fire and medical personnel so when the firefighting academy came up, I decided to give it a try and I love that just as much.”
She says being in a military family built in her a need to find purpose in her work. “I really love the idea of doing cool things but in service to other people. It’s very fulfilling.”
She says the Georgetown job is much busier than her previous volunteer station but she loves the variety and actually enjoys the call volumes.
“We use a lot more drugs in this job so I’ve been re-learning and refreshing my protocols and the staff here are always willing to work with me on different firefighting equipment. For instance, we have several saws on the truck and for some reason they all start up differently. Training makes all of those details more automatic and we are quicker when the time comes.”
Although she had previously worked as an EMT and firefighter, she attended the 13-week academy here for what Chief John Sullivan calls “putting the Georgetown shine on things” and as a probationary member for one year, she will learn the techniques and processes that are unique to our city.
“Being the only female on the crew is new for some people but I really love the people I’m working with [at Station #2]. They feel like big brothers and they pick on me because I’m new, not because I’m a girl. The ‘new guys’ always have that. But they are always ready to quiz me or help with training and fieldwork.
“For me, I focus on making sure I make a good first impression, keep my big-girl pants on and do the job as an equal because it’s all hands on deck here. It’s comfortable here and I’m really glad to be in Georgetown.”
Whitaker says this is definitely going to be a career. “I’m excited about the growth in Georgetown and it’s the perfect time to be here and grow with it. My family is happy and supportive and I love that my job is different every day. Georgetown is different, really, from street to street. One call is a refusal and the next is an intubation. You just never know, but it’s exciting.”