Here is an article that I'd love for you to steal. Feel free to print this out and send it to your local newspaper in your (or your agency's) name. Help spread the message of the proper use of the 911 system and show your dispatchers some love. Remember, "National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week" is April 8th – 14th, 2012.
It’s a crazy world out there.
Mayhem happens. Cars crash, buildings burn, people get sick and injured. We’re all guilty of doing some not-so-smart things every now and then. Usually we’re lucky and nothing happens, we skate by with hardly a thought to the consequences that might have been. However, sometimes it catches up with us. Sometimes those last second chances in traffic cause metal to crunch upon other metal; Sometimes we find out just how well the batteries in our smoke detectors still work; and sometimes we are shown just how fragile life really is. The human body is a masterfully crafted machine capable of doing everything we really need it to, but sometimes it stops working. Sometimes tires on semi-trailers blow while you’re passing them on the interstate. Sometimes your new baby has a seizure. Sometimes your spouse won’t wake up.
As I said: Mayhem, it happens.
While there isn’t anyone out there who would want to dwell on the unthinkable we all know exactly what we’re going to do when we’re faced with it. It’s ingrained into the fabric of American culture and is mostly the same anywhere you go. Everyone knows that when there is a serious risk to life, limb, sight, property, or safety you simply call 911.
“Nine-One-One.” It’s always pronounced that way. Those three numbers are said individually because people who panic over the situation they are calling about used to fumble in vain looking for an eleven key. Nine-One-One. We all remember it and reflexively know that it’s there. We know that someone will answer it and that they will help us when we need it. We know that help is just a phone call away. We know if we call and we really need them that police officers, firefighters, and paramedics will come and help us. We know it to be true and it provides a subconscious level of security for our entire lives. We don’t know what we’d do differently if it wasn’t there, but luckily we know that it is. It affects the American psyche in many ways and probably affects our culture in ways we’ve never studied. Nine-One-One. When we need it to be there, we really *need* it to be there.
April 8th through the 14th is “National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week” as part of the larger “National 911 Education Month.” Sponsored and celebrated by various groups as well as the National Emergency Number Association (www.NENA.org), the events help bring awareness to those who answer our pleas for help. They’re always there around the clock but most people hardly give these trained professionals a second thought. They toil in relative obscurity until we need them. We don’t think about them or the system they command until they’re the calm voice on the other end of the phone helping you deal with the unthinkable. When that happens they’re the most important persons in the world. We need them. They’re the lifeblood of public safety and the life line for everyone from the police officer in a shootout to the firefighter in a burning building to the husband doing CPR on his wife. They deserve our respect and there are a lot of us that quite literally owe them our lives.
There are some ways that you can help your local 911 system:
First: Learn how to dial 911. It sounds silly when you say it, but do you really know how to call it from every device you own? Can you call it from your Voice-Over-IP (Internet) phone? What about your iPhone or Droid? Do you know how to call it from home? From work? What about your kids? If you were unconscious could they figure out how to call 911 from your cell phone? Could they call it from school?
Second: Know how to give a correct location to the 911 operator. Even with the “Enhanced 911 system” that is supposed to provide location information to the dispatcher, your phone may not do it. Think about providing a clear location to 911. Teach your kids their address and their full names.
Third: Stay on the line. When you call 911 do not hang up first. Let the dispatcher end the call. There may be more information the dispatcher has to get from you. Responding emergency units may get lost and need directions on where to go. Every emergency dispatch is a carefully orchestrated series of events between various systems and groups. The fire department coordinates with the ambulance which coordinates with law enforcement and vice versa. The 911 dispatcher is the person who makes a lot of these decisions and has a lot to do in order to get things rolling. If they need information from you they will ask. If they don’t, they’ll end the call first. Please stay on the line and help give them all of the information they need.
Finally, learn CPR. Everyone should know it. 911 dispatchers are trained to give instructions over the phone to you on how to help in a medical emergency, but this is not a substitute for training on what to do. Learning CPR saves lives. Know it and be ready to perform it.
Think about the system and find ways to support the local 911 dispatchers. They don’t get hardly any credit for being the absolute lifesavers that they truly are.