Tuesday, March 13, 2018

9-1-1 Telecommunicators Spot Light Blog: Hilory Verduzco of Aransas County

1.    Tell me a little bit about yourself: Where are you from, what agency do you work for, how long have you been there and what is your passion for working for 911?

My name is Hilary Verduzco I work for the Aransas County Public Safety Center and I just hit my 3 year mark.  To be honest I didn’t dream of being a dispatcher or a 911 operator I just sort of stumbled upon the job.  I did want to do something in the field of criminal justice and earned a bachelor’s degree so when I was job searching I came across the listing for this position.  I am the type of person who loves to help people in any way possible.  This job fulfills the need of helping people by getting my citizen the answer or helping them find the answer to their problem.   As a dispatcher I get to work with officers, deputies, DPS, fire department, ems, investigators and citizens so having us all work together to help our community is what I love the most.  I love to be challenged and my mind gets  restless when I don’t have something to do, with this job I get to work on a multitude of tasks  which is sometimes stressful but it keeps me on my toes.  All of the challenges and different situations we deal with as dispatchers keeps my passion for 911 alive. 
2.    I’m sure you hear a lot of interesting stories when answering calls, but what is one story that sticks out in your head that might have been scary, but turned out funny and/or everything worked out after the call.

It’s hard to remember all of the interesting calls or stories that come across dispatch but one of the more recent ones was a child, I’d say about 8, who called 911 and said that he was alone and was scared he didn’t know where his dad was.  He also didn’t know what the exact address of where he was so I proceeded to get any info on his parents so that I could contact them to see what was going on.  He gave his mother’s name and phone number so I called her on our non-emergency line and it turns out she lived in another state! She started to panic and wonder what was going on as well.  I advised her everything was okay we just needed the fathers information now since that was his house.  The mother also told me that the child’s grandmother and cousin also lived with the child’s father so she would try to contact them as well.  While I was gathering all of this information the officer was dispatched to the residence and was attempting to locate the child.  It turns out that the grandmother and another family member was asleep in another room, the child was okay after all.  This is an example of how our emotions go from one end to the other thinking this child was in danger or the parents weren’t watching their children to they were just asleep in another room.  That was one of the few calls where we as dispatchers actually get some closure or learn the outcome of a call. 
3.    What do you think people need to know about the people who answer the phones for 9-1-1?

A lot of people need to know that, for our agency, the people who answer 911 are people just like you, we have lives and families and problems that we are struggling with along with doing our jobs so a small amount of consideration and respect can go a long way with us.  We are a consolidated Communications Center; therefore, we dispatch for multiple agencies and we deal with everything that goes on in our community from funeral escorts to school zone traffic control, from medical emergencies to structure fires, from after-hours water payments to cows in the roadway and everything in between.  We are not “All Knowing” we cannot make an officer appear in front of you within seconds and we cannot read minds.  We try to do things as fast and accurate most importantly as safely as possible for everyone involved so bear with us. 
4.    Why do you think it is important for people to have 9-1-1 as a resource for emergency help?

911 is an important resource to have for emergencies.   911 is the easiest number to remember and hopefully it is instilled in most of our brains by now.  Any phone in or out of service is able to dial 911 so anyone and everyone can reach help if needed.  911 is a great resource when you are alone, for me this is the most important time for 911.  Since there is no one else around to help you with whatever you are going through, it allows you to get the help you need. 
5.    If you were talking to kids graduating high school who were not sure what field that wanted to go into, what would you tell them about your job and why it is such a fulfilling and worthwhile job?

If you are looking into a career as a Telecommunications Operator, you want to help people and are good at multi-tasking and do well under pressure, then this is the job for you.  There are plenty of opportunities to see how it all works through sit-ins or doing a ride-along.  I really wanted to help people and I was very interested in criminal justice but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a police officer.  I looked at different career paths like a case worker for child support, although there is a need for caseworkers to look into children’s situations and their job is so very important, it just didn’t stick.  Another option I thought of was a Juvenile probation officer, at the time of my job search there weren’t too many openings in my area.  When I came across the dispatcher position I ended up loving it its exciting and challenging, you will not be bored and first responders are always needed!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

9-1-1 Celebrate 50 Years of Service in the United States!

This year marks a significant achievement for 9-1-1! The number that people know to dial in the U.S. to reach emergency services, 9-1-1, is celebrating 50 years of service. On February 16, 1968, Alabama Speaker of the House, Mr. Rankin Fite, made the first 9-1-1 call from the Haleyville City Hall.

9-1-1 has come a long way since then and gone through several different type of phones used to reach 9-1-1 for emergency situations. Phones that we find indoors come in all shapes and sizes. They may have buttons or dials, and can sit on a desk or hang on a wall. They may have a cord that looks like a tail and attaches to the wall. Some have a curly cord that attaches the handset to the phone. To call 9-1-1 on a corded landline phone, pick it up and you will hear a dial tone. Push the “9” button, push the “1” button, and then push the “1” button again.
The phones that have no curly cords and that you can take all over the house are called cordless phones. These phones have a base and a cord attached to the wall. There is a difference between cordless and cell phones. To call 9-1-1 on a cordless phone, press the on or talk button, listen for a dial tone, and then push the "9" button, push the "1" button, and then push the "1" button again.

There are many variations of cell phones sometimes called smart phones. To call for help, push the “9” button, push the “1” button, and then push the “1” button again, then press the send button. The send or on button may be green or have a green icon.
When to Call 911

9-1-1 is the number to call when you need help in an emergency! An emergency is when something happens and you need the police, firemen, or an ambulance.  For example, if you see your neighbor's house on fire, that is an emergency!  If someone falls down and is badly hurt, that is an emergency too!  But, if your cat is stuck in a tree, that is not an emergency.
9-1-1 is not the number to use if you just need help from an adult or for pets. 9-1-1 should only be used in a real emergency and never as a joke!

WHEN to call 9-1-1: 
•when lives are at risk
•when you need the police, fire department, or paramedics

When you should NOT call 9-1-1:
•when there is no emergency
•for animals (except when they pose a threat to the safety of a person)
•as a game or prank
•for a joke
•to practice

Since then, 9-1-1 technology has evolved and continues to evolve to meet consumer expectations. Each advancement has improved our nation’s ability to get better, more reliable information to first responders so they can do their job of saving lives and property.
As we celebrate 50 years of service in the United States, it is an important reminder to the significance of 9-1-1 emergency services. Without 9-1-1, emergency services such as EMS, Fire and Police would not be able to get to those in need of help.
Most recently, a major change to multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) has been the introduction of Kari’s Law. In Texas, Kari’s Law requires direct access to 9-1-1 without having to dial an additional digit such as 9. This law is important because it ensures those who call 9-1-1 from an MLTS phone get the help they need.
As 9-1-1 continues to adapt to other needs of the community, consumers will see the adaptation of Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911). NG911 includes 9-1-1 being able to find those in emergency situations quicker and pinpoint their location more efficiently. It also includes text to 9-1-1, which will eventually allow for consumers to send not only texts to 9-1-1, but also pictures and videos.
For 9-1-1 to provide the excellent emergency services that the community needs, adapting NG911 services will become more important than ever—especially when we have natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey. All of the Texas 9-1-1 Authorities are excited to celebrate 50 years of 9-1-1 throughout the United States and hope to see     9-1-1 continue to provide emergency services that fit the communities’ needs.
What will you be doing in your area this year to help celebrate 50 Years of 9-1-1? Email melinda.crockom@csec.texas.gov with information, pictures and videos and I will showcase your efforts in the future blogs!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Cell Phone Sally 9-1-1 Spotlight: Telecommunicator Alicia Erichsen

1. Tell me your history with 911: How long have you been a 9-1-1
telecommunicator and in what area do you serve? Where did you find a passion for this?

I can't remember off the top of my head, since working here, when I used 9-1-1 for personal reasons. Though, I have witnessed several calls and used it while being a 9-1-1 call-taker myself. I can remember watching the television show "Panic 9-1-1" and thinking the operators must be highly trained. January 31, 2018 marks my 17 year anniversary. I found my passion on an accident call. It was a major accident call and my first time on a Friday night to man the mic. I was working with my partner Martha, a 20 year veteran. Phase 1 was either just beginning or not there at all.  One of our off duty dispatchers stopped in. She had been riding with her husband, an officer for one of the PD's.  The 9-1-1 call came in- it was a bad accident- the caller was hysterical, injured, angry and had no idea where he was. My crisis call-taker, 9-1-1 operator, radio communicator job really began at that moment. I remember giving everyone in the room a job to help me help the caller.  I needed more eyes, hands and reassurance, the caller had began to notice his occupants weren't responding. For me, it felt like the world was on fire with gusts of wind blowing right at my face. I knew for the caller it was 10 times worse. The accident was located two persons of 4 or more didn't make it. The caller lived. I lived. Managing a crisis was the passion I found that night and I have kept coming back for more ever since.

2. I’m sure you hear a lot of interesting stories when answering calls, but what is one story that sticks out in your head that might have been scary, but turned out funny and/or everything worked out after the call.
I can't recall all of the calls but I can remember making my own 9-1-1 call. I don't work in the town I live in. This was a very long time ago but I came home late one night to a wrecked home.  My things were thrown around the room, broken a total mess. I was terrified. After a couple of calls, including one call to 9-1-1, an officer, my landlord, and two friends were coming to my aid. My older sister was also on the way too! My landlord had just left, he was going to change the locks. The officer asked me questions like do you know anyone that would be upset with you and I bawled! I was a wreck! We were outside and the officer asked my neighbor a couple of questions, my neighbor said there was loud banging against the walls all night. As we stood listening, one of the friends mentioned she stopped at my home the day before came inside and thinks she may have left the front door opened. The officer, myself and the friend went inside my home, but this time we looked ridiculous. We had our shoulders raised to our ears, whispering and walking softly? The officer began to look harder at the prints he found. The place was so wrecked, wall pictures, mirrors and plants just busted everywhere. What more could he find from those prints but the suspect, right?  He asked me if I owned a cat? I didn't own any pet while living there. We all approached my bedroom, stepped inside and I said pull that laundry basket out. The officer leaned down, pulled the basket out and out jumped the suspect! Terrified, I screamed and began running in place. The suspect began to head for me. I turned and put motion to my already running legs and ran out the front door with the suspect in pursuit. I got out the door caught my breath and realized I was the only one outside. My friend was walking out the door slowly and unable to walk straight since she was laughing too hard from the chaos she just witnessed. I went back inside, into my bedroom to find the officer bent over at the waist with his hand on my bed and the other on the laundry basket, as if to hold himself up.  He wasn't making a sound, until I heard him take a deep breath in, to let out the biggest belly laugh.  He laughed himself out the door. He tried his very best not to make me feel like I was silly and my experience was hilarious. My landlord had just pulled up, the officer stops my landlord and says, "the suspect has left the building!" The suspect was a squirrel. Yes, a scared squirrel trying to get out of my home. The officer said I had just given him the best story of his career and said how in the future he would love recalling this story. Months later I received a gift from a friend, also a dispatcher, who worked as a dispatcher in the city I lived in. She had also heard about the squirrel, and laughed uncontrollably. The gift was from the responding officer, a stuffed squirrel. I have quite the collection from friends and family now of stuffed squirrels. 

3. What do you think people need to know about the people who answer the phones for 9-1-1?
I think people need to know that we want to help.  When people call in yelling "just figure it out" or "you already know where I am" the training we've had gets tossed out the window.  We're human and we're going to make mistakes, please work with us instead of against us.  Remember that we probably haven't used the bathroom or eaten yet, and you're our first priority.  And people really need to know how awesome we feel at the end of a compliant, helpful caller. For me, it's a huge energy boost.

4. Why do you think it is important for people to have 9-1-1 as a resource for emergency help?
9-1-1 is a direct connect to help.  There aren't any automated systems to go through, just a person on the other end of the line willing and ready to listen and send help.  Anytime.

5.  If you could share one piece of advice with the world regarding 9-1-1, what would it be and why?
Dear world, 9-1-1 is not just for kids. It's for everyone. Teach your children, teach your older family, teach your teenagers and your young adults. Learn that it's an amazing resource to have at our fingertips. It's a person on the other end of the line, a voice that will stay with you and get help to you. It's not a joke if you call because you can't find the number to Pizza Hut. It's used when people are dying, grow up. Many places in the world don't have this service, appreciate where you live does.  Play "what-if" emergency drills with your family, educate yourselves about how to use a cell phone correctly and go over what you'll give the 9-1-1 operator; your name, your number and your location.  We'll get help to you.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cell Phone Sally 9-1-1 Spotlight: Telecommunicator Andrea Davis

1. Tell me your history with 911: How long have you been a 9-1-1 telecommunicator and in what area do you serve?
I have been a dispatcher for seven years all together now.  I served in Colorado City and now I have been in Sweetwater, Texas for five years.

2.  I’m sure you hear a lot of interesting stories when answering calls, but what is one story that sticks out in your head that might have been scary, but turned out funny and/or everything worked out after the call.
The scariest call I've ever had, was when I got a call from a female who's boyfriend was holding a knife to her throat.  My guys got there, and he ended up going to jail.

3. What do you think people need to know about the people who answer the phones for 9-1-1?
We feel, pain, compassion, love, and, yes, even anger sometimes. We feel all of these things, but we still come to work everyday, and put those emotions aside, and are as professional  as we can be!

4. What do you enjoy most about your job and why?
I enjoy the day to day, because you never know what will happen next. And sometimes, I get to save a few lives.

5. Why do you think it is important for people to have 9-1-1 as a resource for emergency help?
So that people can  reach out to emergency services, for help, weather it be minor or major.

6.  If you could share one piece of advice with the world regarding 9-1-1, what would it be and why?
When calling, try to remain calm, and always know your location.  And please remember, that the dispatcher on the other end is only human.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Practice Safety First This Thanksgiving Holiday

During this time of year, when family and friends get together to celebrate each other and all that they are thankful for, we like to remind everyone to practice safety first during all the holiday celebrations. It is also an excellent time to remind children what to do in case of an emergency! Check out some tips we have compiled for you to make your holiday a little more safe and prepared.

Many families will be on the road traveling to visit friends and relatives for Thanksgiving- they actually are stating on the news that this will be the biggest travel year in almost 10 years. Please remember not to use your cell phone when you are driving- this means no texting and driving either! It is best to always pull over if you need to talk or text on the phone. It only takes seconds for an accident to occur so keep your eyes on the road at all times. Distracted drivers and any harsh weather conditions can be a recipe for disaster. So remember to keep alert and dial 9-1-1 if you ever find yourself in an emergency situation. (And Know Your Location!) Install the FEMA app for Weather Alerts, safety tips, emergency checklists and more. Here is the link: FEMA APP

One of the best parts of Thanksgiving is all the delicious dishes created by friends and loved ones alike! When preparing these yummy dishes, please remember to be smart and safe. Salmonella is a common cause of food poisoning and while it’s normally not fatal, it is widespread. It is typically found in raw meats, poultry, eggs, milk, fish and their bi-products. Salmonella can only be destroyed by cooking food thoroughly and with temperatures above 140 degrees.

Food poisoning usually happens because of poor food handling practices. Symptoms can include fever, headache, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort and vomiting. The guilty party in all food poisonings is bacteria, which enters our bodies through contaminated food. Wash hands, dishes, utensils, kitchen equipment and work surfaces before and after handling. Be particularly careful around knives, washing them thoroughly after each use. And remember, even frozen food can contain bacteria. If you think you might have been poisoned, please do not hesitate to contact poison control for help at 1-800-222-1222.

Below is a video on fire-safe cooking from NFPA. Remember, if a fire occurs please do not hesitate to dial 9-1-1 for help! (See Turkey Fryer Safety)

Home Safety
Be smart if you plan to travel away from your home for the holidays. Do not post that you are going to be out of town on any social media sites. Secure all windows and doors so there is no easy entry into your home and set an alarm system if you have one. If you can, have a friend move your car occasionally while you are gone so it looks like someone is home. Thieves love to prey on easy targets so please do not be an easy target and keep your home safe. And if you ever find yourself in an emergency situation, please do not hesitate to contact 9-1-1 for help.

Turkey Fryer Safety

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Halloween: Tips for a Spooky Safe Time!

Halloween falls on a Tuesday this year which means children will be out early to start their trick or treating and Halloween festivities! While this time of year brings spooky fun and children get to enjoy dressing up as their favorite characters, it is also a time when safety becomes a very important topic.

Check out some tips from Cell Phone Sally on how to have a happy Halloween as well as a safe and smart holiday:

·         Always buddy up when trick or treating. Walk in groups with a trusted adult.

·         Avoid costumes that are too dark. Light and reflective clothing is best. Fasten reflective tape onto costumes and bags to help drivers see you.

·         Wear costumes that are also “flame-resistant”; most costumes show this labeled on them. If you make your own costume, use flame resistant fabrics such as polyester or nylon.

·         Try and stay away from costumes that utilize masks and instead op for make-up and hats to dress up your costume.

·         Make sure any make-up you use is safe for the skin and not old. If it has a smell to it, throw it out. And if you develop a rash, redness, or swelling, then you could be allergic to the make-up and should refrain from using.

·         Make sure to examine all the candy when you get home. Check for any choking hazards or candy that has been tampered with. And don’t eat too much candy when you get home- it could make you sick to your stomach.

·         Parents of young children should remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts and hard candies, or even small toys from Halloween bags.

·         Before bobbing for apples, a common Halloween game, reduce the risk of bacteria by thoroughly rinsing the apples under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

·         Take a flashlight with you to help guide your way in the dark and to make you more visible to vehicles.  

·         Always look both ways before crossing the street. Cars move fast so be aware of your surroundings.

·         Enter homes ONLY if you are with a trusted adult. And never under any circumstances accept a ride from a stranger.

·         Carry a cell phone with you to make sure you can contact help in case of an emergency.

·         If you are ever in an emergency situation, please do not hesitate to contact 9-1-1.


We hope everyone has a wonderfully spooky and fun Halloween! Make sure to stay safe!

Monday, September 18, 2017

National Preparedness Month Takes on a Whole New Meaning after Hurricane Harvey and other Natural Disasters

Tragedy struck Texas recently when Hurricane Harvey made landfall and destroyed homes, roads and more. As homes flooded and people found themselves in various emergency situations, it was a grim reminder that one can never be too prepared for a natural disaster to strike.

September marks National Preparedness Month and Cell Phone Sally wants to remind you to be prepared for an emergency whether it be a hurricane, a fire, an earthquake, or some other natural disaster. You never know what type of emergency situation could affect you, which is why it is so incredibly important to have an emergency kit prepared with you at all times. Together we can make sure no matter where you are, you are prepared to take on an emergency situation in a calm and ready manner.

Here are the basics:
Be Informed: When it comes to being prepared for a disaster, there is no such thing as being too prepared. Being informed about the different types of emergencies that can happen in your area and their appropriate responses includes learning about the hazards that may strike your community, the risks you face from these hazards and your community’s plans for warning and evacuation. Awareness is the first key to being prepared. Want to know more? Visit https://www.ready.gov/be-informed.
Make a Plan: Put a plan in place with your family and loved ones. You always want to be prepared for the “what ifs” so that when the emergency occurs, you feel more confident in contacting and locating your loved ones. Remember to think about how you will get in touch with each other to let each other know you are safe or if you need help. You also need to know where you plan on meeting to get back together during disastrous times. And lastly, you should communicate with your loved ones how you would react and what you would do depending on the type of emergency. For more info, visit http://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan.
Build a Kit: Use building a kit as an opportunity to bond with your family and loved ones. Involve children in the process too so that they feel they are contributing to ways they can help their family in an emergency. Things to include in a supply kit include food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least three days. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours, or it might take days which is why you want to have plenty of food and water to survive on. In addition, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and telephones may be cut off for days, or even a week or longer. To find a complete checklist of the supplies your household may need in the event of an emergency, visit http://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit.
Take Action: This is your chance to get involved with your community. You can do this by visiting www.CitizenCorps.gov to find local Citizen Corps Councils. You can also look into USAonWatch (Neighborhood Watch) groups, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), Fire Corps programs, Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) programs, and Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units. Ask them what you can do to prepare yourself and your community for disasters and how to get involved locally. National Day of Action is September 30th. During this grassroots national day of action, head over to this link and learn all about America’s Prepathon as well as register your preparedness activities.
Cell Phone Sally wants to remind you that 9-1-1 is a valuable resource and way to get or find help in any emergency situation. And remember- never use 9-1-1 for fun as it can clog up the phone lines for real emergencies.