April is a big month for 9-1-1. Not only do 9-1-1 educators have the opportunity to spread emergency services information all month long, but they also have the opportunity to show major appreciation to telecommunicators during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (April 10-16, 2016).
For those of you who do not know, telecommunicators, also known as call-takers or dispatchers, are individuals who work for an emergency service provider (usually 9-1-1) and are qualified to answer incoming emergency telephone calls and provide for the appropriate emergency response. They work incredibly hard each and every day answering tough calls in an effort to get the public whatever emergency service they need.
In 1991, Congress recognized their efforts and created a week distinguishing who they are and the importance they play in our society. Then, in 2008, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to increase national awareness about the importance and appropriate use of 9-1-1. By creating a month dedicated to 9-1-1 education, Congress is able to encourage annual public awareness events, public advertising campaigns, target outreach activities and provide training for parents and teachers.
Below, we have compiled some important messages and current issues that the public should be more aware of so that they can get the most out of 9-1-1 services.
Call if You Can, Text if You Can’t: Many have the misconception that you can text 9-1-1 for help. We can do everything else through text, so why not contact 9-1-1 this way too? Unfortunately that is not the case. Luckily, many agencies are working hard to make this available across the United States. While more and more entities are incorporating text to 9-1-1, there is only still a small percentage of the country that has it available. If you see a sign or information in your region promoting that you can text to 9-1-1, then you can guarantee it is available. But if you do not, then please assume you can’t text to 9-1-1 and please call if you need help. Keep in mind that if you do text to 9-1-1 and it is NOT available in your area, you will receive a bounce back message instructing you to please call 9-1-1 for help.
Know Your Location: Many people have smart phones these days. And on these smart phones we have maps that show us where we are, so it doesn’t seem farfetched to think that if we have GPS in our phone, then 9-1-1 should be able to find us when we call. This is actually not the case. When you call 9-1-1 from a cell phone/smart phone, dispatchers are only able to see approximately where you are and not specifically where you are located. Remember to always be aware and know your location. Look for mile markers, landmarks, cross streets and addresses on buildings. This information could potentially save your life or another life!
Stay Calm and Ready to Listen: When we call 9-1-1, it is usually for an emergency and this can be a stressful situation. But it is imperative that you try your best to stay calm and listen to the call-taker’s questions so that they can properly help you. A lot of people get confused when the call-taker is asking a lot of questions. They are panicking and want help right away. Trust us- the call-taker gets it and the reason they are asking questions is so that they can help you to the best of their ability. And help is usually always on the way already even while the call-taker is still asking questions.
As always, do not forget that 9-1-1 is for emergency use only and should never be abused or used for fun. It helps save lives and is an important tool in helping our society to get the aid they need. Call 9-1-1 when you or someone else’s life is in danger, or if there is a crime or fire occurring. We are here when you need us. For more information on 9-1-1 education, please visit www.csec.texas.gov.