Editor’s note: This is the first story in an ongoing series highlighting National 9-1-1 Education Month.
PRINCETON – People seldom forget to say “thank you” to the life-saving first responders who dive into the scene of an emergency. Most times, however, they do forget about the “first, first responders” or dispatchers who answer the emergency calls and get help to the scene in time.
For that reason, this week in April is dedicated to the 9-1-1 dispatcher heroes. The week is recognized as National Safety Telecommunicators Week.
Bureau Emergency Communications Director Diana Stiles confirmed the opportunities are limited as far as people calling in to thank a dispatcher.
“For me as the director, it’s important to know I value what they do. I value them as human beings that are doing a job that is thankless, for the most part, from the general public because people forget who they are,” she said.
Every year, during the second full week of April, BuEComm dispatchers celebrate with a get-together, complete with cake, food and games. It’s their time to feel proud about what they do and accomplish.
On a slightly different note, the full month of April is recognized as National 9-1-1 Education Month.
Although 9-1-1 seems like a simple notion, it’s not. According to a press release issued by BuEComm, emergency call centers all over the United States have encountered hurdles when educating the public about its uses. What started as a simple concept has grown into an infrastructure that needs critical attention.
As technology improves and service providers offer new “smarter” phones and communication devices, it becomes even more essential to educate citizens on the 9-1-1 capabilities of these devices.
Dawn Porter, BuEComm 9-1-1 education coordinator, said the big issue right now is people believing they can text to 9-1-1 – which is not true.
“We tell everyone if you need emergency assistance, you dial 9-1-1, you call,” she said.
Currently there are no regulations, standard operating procedures or guidelines in place for texting to 9-1-1.
“It’s a very, very dangerous thing right now, and people need to know the best and surest way to guarantee their safety is to dial,” Stiles said.
Emergency call centers are battling with the rapid demand for the newest software.
People are continuously developing software and devices, like the new Home Phone Connect, but don’t understand the problems it will create when the public tries to dial 9-1-1.
Actually, most emergency call centers are still trying to master incoming wireless calls. People don’t understand, when a wireless call comes in, dispatchers don’t get an address of where the call is coming from – they get a football size imagine of where the caller could be. The only phone that gives dispatchers a pinpoint address is a standard landline phone.
“Before we develop new products, we need to make sure we’ve protected the old things,” Stiles said. “We need to make sure we can find someone on a wireless call before we start texting and doing this and that ... Progress is good, but sometimes it should be a slower progress than what we have, especially when it deals with public safety and peoples’ lives.”
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