911 where are you?

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911 where are you?

Post by 911Dispatcher on Sun Aug 30, 2009 9:02 pm



I hate playing Monday morning quarterback but there are a few things from this story that I want to address. First I want to say in most dispatch centers there are five hundred other things going on that never show up on the 911 transcripts. Just because a journalist or citizen can sit and listen to a 911 call it does not mean they are getting a clear picture of what is happening. To do that you would have to add in the radio traffic and other phone lines that were happening at the same time. I also give added credit to the 26 dispatch centers in Maine because most are covering more agencies than they have adequate staffing for. I know of some departments that cover up to 12 Fire Departments along with multiple Police Departments and only staff two to three persons per shift. Although there are many benefits to regionalization, there are down sides, such as proper staffing.

Ok now I'm going to be really harsh here.......

Direct from the 911 transcript the first thing said was "911 what is your emergency?" I can tell you from working in numerous departments, EMD training, and multiple 911 training seminars the first question should ALWAYS be "911 what is the ADDRESSS of your emergency?" How much help is it going to be to know what the emergency is when you have no clue where to send responders? If itís a bad connection at least with the location first you can send the cavalry (Police/Fire/EMS). Knowing itís a fire does no good unless you know where itís at.

Next after assuming they were in Carthage the operator tells the caller to hang on a minute then the caller hears ringing. If you were the caller, would you be confused as to what was going on? Would you think you had lost the connection and hang up? It happens all the time. Thatís why the dispatcher should have advised the caller they were transferring them to a different department. Keep your caller informed at all times and never leave air space (no talking for more than 5 seconds) without advising the caller.

Next the caller says "I'm showing you in Wells" (possible transcript error, may have said Weld). Never give the caller a chance to say "yes" to a location. This person usually is in a stressful situation that they have never been in before. Most will always say yes even if the information is incorrect because they want a response. Instead the dispatcher should have asked the caller to confirm what town they were in, or better yet what was the last know street or landmark they remember passing. How about asking the caller to verbally drive them to the location? Not all, but most callers are capable of doing this.

Also some common sense and training comes into play here. They are talking about checking for a mailbox number which is good, but are there vehicles in the driveway? According to the transcript the caller talks about a vehicle in the driveway. A license plate run through the DMV system will show an address for the registered owner, although not accurate this could have played an important role in the call.

More than complaining about the E911 system and its lacking GPS technology it seems to me that the dispatch centers in Maine need to look at better training, better SOP's (Standard Operating Practices), and consistency within the departments. Itís not just Maine either; there are many cases across the nation where centers have minimal training for such a vital job.

Also we have become a society too reliant on technology rather than brain power. Technology can be beneficial but only to the point where it keeps us from becoming non thinkers. We still need to train and learn how to operate without technology because there will be times when we will be on our own. During minor incidents such as power outages and system failures but more importantly during major incidents of natural and man made disasters.

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