A guide to using the 911 system
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A guide to using the 911 system
Online search engine Cha-Cha suggests that the average citizen dials 911 only once or twice during his lifetime. Unfortunately, most emergencies do not make advance appointments or delay their untimely occurrence based on human convenience. Therefore, it is advantageous for all citizens to pre-plan and become familiar with best practices regarding the utilization of 911 emergency services.
Before an emergency
Make sure your street address numbers are clearly displayed on the front of your home and mailbox. The numbers should be made from a reflective material, and should be visible from the street, not just on a sunny day, but also during inclement weather or at night; if responders cannot quickly and clearly see your address, help likely will be delayed.
Determine your dispatch center’s non-emergency telephone number and post it on your refrigerator or in another prominent location near your phone.
Do not program the number 911 into a speed-dial button on your cellular or home phone. Many thousands of inadvertent 911 calls are placed by speed-dial-enabled phones that are jostled in pockets or purses. When the pre-programmed button is depressed accidentally and a 911 call is placed, emergency telecommunicators have an obligation to listen to private conversations and other often embarrassing activities that are occurring in the background, in order to investigate whether an emergency truly is occurring. This is a substantial problem for 911 telecommunicators.
Know when to utilize 911. Is your call 911 worthy? If you are reporting a crime-in-progress, or if you need a fire or EMS response, you should call 911. If you are reporting a non-emergency incident, e.g., one where the suspects already have departed a scene and there is nothing fleeting or life-threatening occurring, call the non-emergency number for your dispatch center.
Said another way, if you arrive home and observe a man you don’t recognize running out your front door with your television set, you need to dial 911 immediately. However, if you want to report that your cousin stole your flat-screen television last week and won’t return it, utilize the non-emergency number.
Know how to dial 911 from your workplace phone. Do you need to dial a particular number to obtain an outside line before you dial 911 for emergency assistance? Large corporations, post-secondary educational institutions and military installations often want those requesting emergency assistance to dial a local on-campus number instead of calling 911 directly. While it is best that a 911 caller can see an emergency so they can answer detailed questions about the situation, check with your employer or location to determine how they prefer you to obtain emergency assistance.
Help persons with special needs or chronic illnesses prepare. If you have a loved one who has a chronic medical problem or one who has special needs or disabilities (severe diabetic, severe epileptic, autistic, deaf, blind, wheelchair-bound, etc.) call your local emergency communications center and ask them if they might like to place information into their computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system about your loved one, so that it might be available in a time of need.
It is important to note that a caller should never assume that the telecommunicator has access to this pre-provided information, because even emergency dispatch centers are not immune from computer or human failures; however, it cannot hurt to offer to provide the information before an emergency occurs.
Know whether text-to-911 service is available in your area. Though texting in today’s tech-savvy and gadget-filled society has become commonplace, few U.S. jurisdictions have systems in place that let users send texts—much less pictures and video—to public-safety answering points.
As 911 centers across the country replace their older technology with newer equipment, these capabilities will become more commonplace; however, at this time, it is recommended that if you need emergency assistance from your local first responders, call 911.