The week of April 9 to 15 is Emergency Service Dispatchers and 9-1-1 Awareness Week; and while dispatchers are there to help the public in case of an emergency, it’s important for the public to understand how they can help emergency services. Here are a few tips that can help you keep yourself, your family, and your community safer.
When you call 9-1-1 from a cellphone it means that important information, such as the address you’re calling from, is not automatically available to the call taker. With more and more people getting rid of landlines in favour of cellphones, it is critically important that children know their address from a very early age, so that they are prepared in case of an emergency.
A four-year-old boy in England is being hailed as a hero after he responded to a medical emergency involving his unconscious mother. After his mother collapsed, the boy pushed her thumb to her phone to unlock it and asked Siri to dial 9-9-9 (the British equivalent of 9-1-1). The dispatcher calmed the boy, who was then able to provide his home address in South London, meaning that emergency services were able to be there within 15 minutes and provide first aid.
The Metropolitan Police in London are using the incident to hammer home the importance of educating children so that they know their home address, and know what to do in case of an emergency. “If you do nothing else today, then I’d implore any parents of young children to sit down with them and make sure they know what to do in this kind of situation and that they know how to contact police or other emergency services in an emergency,” Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Ade Adelekan said. “As this case demonstrates so poignantly, it could really be the difference between life and death.”
If you call 9-1-1 by mistake, please do not hang up. Stay on the line to let the 9-1-1 operator know that you are okay, and that you dialed in error. If you hang up, someone will have to make sure that you are safe. In the best case scenario, you will receive a call back, which you will pick up to confirm that you are fine. In the worst case scenario, you will receive a call back that you do not pick up, and a dispatcher will have to devote resources to tracking your location and dispatching a police officer to find you.
The number of false or abandoned 9-1-1 calls received by dispatchers has dropped from approximately 10 per cent to 6.5 per cent of all calls for service between 2015 and 2016. While the decrease is welcomed, it still means that dispatchers receive an average of 117 9-1-1 calls each day that are false or abandoned. Members of the public can help avoid adding to this number by programming the non-emergency number 604-945-1550 into their phone instead of 9-1-1, and by making sure they store their cellphone with the screen locked.
If you need to call 9-1-1, be prepared for questions. The men and women who answer 9-1-1 calls are professionally trained to make sure you get the help you need as quickly as possible. This means asking a lot of questions, to assist both you and the people helping you. In a crisis, it can feel as if the questions take forever, but they are all necessary. The best thing you can do when you call 9-1-1 is try to stay calm and answer the operator’s questions.