Bell Atlantic-Pennsylvania Employee to Receive National Award for Heroism
December 16, 1996
LANCASTER, Pa. -- Lisa Benefiel, a Bell Atlantic -
employee, will receive a national award for heroism this week for
saving the life of an elderly Lancaster, Pa. woman. A Vail medal will
be presented to Benefiel, a system technician in East Petersburg, by
Regina Novotny, Bell Atlantic vice president-network operations, at 8
a.m. December 17 in the company's Petersburg operations center at 1185
Enterprise Road. The award recognizes outstanding acts of heroism and
public service by telephone employees. In addition to a 2 1/2-inch
bronze medal, Benefiel will receive a check for $2,000 and a citation
describing her heroic act. "Lisa's quick actions, sound judgment and
selfless concern for another human being remind us what our company has
always stood for," Novotny said of the award. "Almost every
act is recorded somewhere that exemplifies the devotion of Bell
Atlantic employees. This concept of service is more than loyalty to a
company or a job. It comes from a sense of individual responsibility
for public service."
Benefiel saved the life of Marie Martin of Lancaster by dragging her
from a smoke-filled apartment in October 1995. That afternoon, Martin
was cooking dinner while waiting for a telephone repair person to
arrive. While she waited, she became drowsy from taking prescription
medication, forgot the food on the stove and fell asleep. The food
cooked away and filled the apartment with thick smoke. Benefiel was
assigned to check on Martin's phone trouble, but would normally have
gone to dinner before going to Martin's home, but "something told
I should go right away," Benefiel said. She knocked on the door but
no one answered. She was about to leave when a neighbor told her
Martin was inside. Benefiel knocked louder and kept knocking.
Finally, Martin woke up and, with the aid of a walker, was able to get
to the door and unlock it.
Benefiel could see the apartment was filled with smoke and that the
elderly lady was dazed and disoriented. She rushed into the
apartment, picked up Martin, carried her outside and placed her in a
chair. Then, she ran back into the smoke-filled kitchen, found the
source of the smoke, turned off the stove and helped air out the
apartment. Her actions are credited with saving Martin from being
overcome by smoke inhalation, the cause of most fire-related deaths
according to public safety officials. In a thank you note to
Benefiel, Martin said, "I want to thank you from the bottom of my
heart for saving my life . . . I know that God guided you here . . .
You are a very brave girl."
The Vail Medal was created in 1920 to recognize outstanding acts of
heroism and public service by telephone employees across the nation.
It is named for Theodore N. Vail, early president of AT&T, to
perpetuate his ideals of responsibility for public service. All
regional Bell telephone companies and AT&T have trusts that fund the
award. Individuals are nominated for the award by their supervisor
but final approval is given by a special committee at Bell Atlantic.
Only four such awards have been made in Pennsylvania since 1984.
Lisa Benefiel has been a Bell
Atlantic - Pennsylvania employee since
1988. She started as a customer service representative and later
became a splicing technician, her job in October 1995 when she rescued
Martin. She is now a systems technician, and installs dialtone
Bell Atlantic Corporation (NYSE:
BEL) is at the forefront of the new
communications, entertainment and information industry. In the
mid-Atlantic region, the company is the premier provider of local
telecommunications and advanced services. Globally, it is one of the
largest investors in the high-growth wireless communication
marketplace. Bell Atlantic also owns a substantial interest in
Telecom Corporation of New Zealand and is actively developing
high-growth national and international business opportunities in all
phases of the industry.