News : KM Dispatchers: Too Many Non-emergency Calls
Kings Mountain, NC, USA, Dec 2, 2015 -- "Emergency 911. Where is your emergency?"
That’s the greeting callers receive when they reach Kings Mountain’s 911 call center.
Notice the one word that’s repeated in the message: "Emergency."
Kings Mountain’s 911 dispatch center, located in police department headquarters on South Piedmont Ave., receives on average about 200 calls per day. The dozen or so men and women who work in the call center say about 40 to 50 percent of those are for reasons not appropriate for emergency dispatch services, and that such a high percentage of junk calls puts a strain on the important resources used for real crises.
"Don’t call us to move your couch," said Andy Underwood, the city’s Public Service Answering Point manager. "We’re here to save your life."
Yes, people call 911 to get help moving their furniture. They call to report missing dogs and cats. They call to report trash in their yard or street. Or a noisy neighbor.
Others dial in looking for a phone number for a business, a hospital or an individual resident. (411 services are provided by a private company, sometimes for a fee).
"911 should be used for someone in immediate danger of life, safety, healthy," said Underwood, who is hoping to help members of the public understand the range of appropriate uses for 911 services.
Wondering about some of the issues that are close to the line, such as an instance of breaking and entering, or suspected breaking and entering.
Underwood explains that if callers believe the culprits have already come and gone, then the call should simply be directed to the Kings Mountain Police Department at (704) 734-0444.
If the victim feels like the intruders are still present or isn’t sure if they are still on the premises, that’s a 911 call, Underwood said.
He also said that any medical emergency or perceived medical emergency is an appropriate 911 call.
Residents who have questions or concerns about city services (such as holiday trash pick up schedules or power or water service outages) should consult the city’s web site.
Repeatedly contacting 911 services for non-emergency reasons can result in arrest, a fine or jail time.
911 operators are carefully trained to help those in distress by assessing what kind of emergency response they require. To do this, they closely follow a kind of script that helps them get the most important information first and proceed from there.
Underwood explains that callers who talk over or refuse to answer the dispatchers questions are slowing down the process of offering assistance – to them and to others who may be calling in
Dispatchers’ first question seeks to locate the person making the call. That’s because they must get a verbal confirmation of what their internal programs are indicating.
Underwood said that the swelling popularity of cell phones, fixing a location is not always 100 percent accurate. The signal could be indicating a location that is a few hundred yards or a few miles off. (Calls coming from land lines may also rarely indicate incorrect locations).
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After the location is confirmed, dispatchers will then ask "What is the emergency?"
At this point, the call center workers will quickly dispatch the appropriate kind of emergency response, whether it be police, fire or ambulance, or a combination of the three.
"Let the telecommunicators ask the questions," Underwood said. "They are well trained to handle 911 calls expeditiously."
911 dispatchers receive a minimum of six weeks training before taking live calls. After that, they undergo constant on the job training. That includes active-shooter, hazardous training, domestic violence and gang violence training, said Underwood, who is a 20-year veteran of police communications and has a background in private industry radio networks.
They also must pass N.C. Division of Criminal Information training and comply with local sheriff’s department standards.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Friday, December 4, 2015
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