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The Ins and Outs of a 911 Call

Many people think that 911 dispatch centers have the best practices and highest training for handling emergencies while this is just not the case. Learn common misconceptions about this emergency communications center that will help you make discretionary

When it comes to reporting emergency situations and emergency communications, the first thing that will come to most people’s mind is a 911 emergency call. It is common knowledge that 911 dispatchers can help in times of need, but there are many misconceptions about the 911 emergency communications center and its capabilities. Highlighted below are some common misconceptions about 911 calls of which the public should be aware.

Misconception #1: 911 Emergency Dispatchers can determine a caller’s location when they call from their cell phone.

In actuality, it is more difficult for dispatchers to track the precise location of a cell phone call than it is for them to determine the location of a traditional land line. This can present a challenge to both the dispatcher and the caller.

In some instances, emergency communications specialists can determine a rough location of a cell phone call using technology, but usually, the most information that an emergency dispatcher can get is the location of the nearest cell tower, which is not always necessarily close. Sometimes they are even the next city over. In fact, in a tragic example of this shortcoming, a newspaper deliverer from Atlanta lost control of her car and ended up submerged in her vehicle in a nearby lake. The incident resulted in tragedy because the 911 dispatcher, utilizing the tools available to her, was unable to find her location on the maps. Instead, the woman’s call was routed through the nearest cell phone tower, which was connected to a neighboring county’s 911 system. In this instance, even though the woman was able to provide the dispatcher with the cross streets and ZIP code of where she was located, it still wasn’t enough information for the dispatcher, revealing a major shortcoming in the 911 emergency communications system.

If the caller is in an unfamiliar area and is unable to physically describe where they are, the emergency dispatcher is unable to get the necessary information that they need. Likewise, the caller is unable to get the help that they desperately need. While the Federal Communications Commission is working towards getting cell phones to provide a more accurate location tracking method in the future, the current system is not sufficient in providing location information that is helpful in the case of an emergency. What can be done in the meantime?

The fix: If unsure about one’s location, the person in distress should search to see if there is a nearby emergency phone. Federal and state codes will often require emergency phones to be provided in certain higher risk areas such as elevators and near pools, and additionally, emergency phones can often be found in parking lots, on college campuses, in stairwells and in parking garages. These phones should be set up in a way that provides a reference point and an exact location to the operator, without the caller having to verbalize the location, for dispatching purposes.

Misconception #2: 911 Emergency Dispatch Centers require the highest level of emergency training and certifications.

It is a common misconception that because they are government and municipality run monitoring centers, 911 dispatchers must have the highest emergency training that is available. However, this is not the case. According to study.com, 911 emergency dispatchers require around 3-6 months of on-the-job training. It is suggested, but not required, that 911 emergency dispatchers be trained in emergency medical services in order to help them manage emergency situations before the proper help can arrive.

The fix: If you are responsible for any sort of emergency phone, consider an outside Emergency Dispatch Center to handle your emergency communications and potentially reduce your liability. Here at Kings III, shift supervisors are Advanced Emergency Medical Dispatcher (AEMD) certified and all emergency operators are Red Cross CPR and HIPAA certified, putting their required training at a higher level than most 911 dispatch centers. The level of both initial and ongoing training our operators receive results in unmatched preparation to professionally respond to any emergency call. Additionally, all calls on our emergency help phones are digitally recorded, date and time stamped and stored indefinitely should you need to request them in the future.

Kings III Emergency Communications has been delivering peace of mind to its customers for more than two decades. Kings III is the nation's only full service provider of emergency communication solutions, delivering maintenance and monitoring services for more than 40,000 emergency phones throughout the United States and Canada. Additional information is available by visiting www.kingsiii.com.

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Allie Lewis

Posted on January 19 2016

By Allie Lewis, Content Marketing Specialist Kings III

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