Tuesday, April 4, 2017

April Marks 9-1-1 Public Education Month and Telecommunicator’s Week!

April is a the month when 9-1-1 educators have the time to spread emergency services information to the public as well as show incredible admiration and appreciation to their public safety telecommunicators during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (April 9-15, 2017).

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 extremely hard each and every day answering the tough 9-1-1 calls in an effort to get the public whatever emergency service they need in a timely manner.  
In 1991, Congress recognized telecommunicator’s efforts and created a special week distinguishing who they are and the importance they play in our society. In 2008, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to increase national awareness about the importance and appropriate use of 9-1-1 and created a month dedicated to 9-1-1 education. With this, Congress encouraged public awareness events, advertising campaigns, outreach activities and training/education for parents and teachers.
Below are 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!
Kari’s Law: A new law that business service users and the public should be aware of is Kari’s Law. This law has to do with providing direct access to 9-1-1 from a multi-user telephone line (MLTS). Prior to Kari’s Law (in Texas, not all states have this law in place), if you tried to dial 9-1-1 from a motel phone or a similar phone where you need to dial 9 or another digit first to get an outside line, you would not always get connected to 9-1-1. Now with Kari’s Law in place, business service users with MLTS phones must have their phones set to be able to dial 9-1-1 directly without dialing an extra digit first. For more info on Kari’s Law visit here. Currently, there is a bill at the federal level to provide direct access to 9-1-1 but it has not been passed yet.
Please remember that 9-1-1 is for emergency use only and should never be abused or used for fun. It not only helps save lives, but is an important tool in helping our society to get the aid they need. For more information on 9-1-1 education, please visit www.csec.texas.gov.