CRESA Always Here, Always Ready

Posts tagged 911

Behind the Headset

What if no one answered 9-1-1

Have you ever wondered what you would do if 911 didn’t answer?  Unfortunately, it’s pretty likely that in the last 5-8 years 911 service or your telephone service has experienced some type of outage.  If you were lucky, you didn’t need 911 during those outages – but what if you did?  The voice and data systems that provide wireline and wireless services to consumers and the 911 system form a complex network that supports your 911 call from the device you call from all the way through to the 911 call taker – we like to refer to this continuum of service as “from call maker to call taker”.

With so many providers, networks, hardware and software playing a part in your phone call to 911 it’s not surprising that there might be an outage of some sort.  Who is affected and what services are affected can be very difficult to isolate and identify – and this is where you come in.  Depending on the circumstance you may have different options.  Below we identify some options for you to try depending on the circumstance:

If you have an emergency and reach for your phone to call 911 and don’t have a dial tone or are unable to make the call –  what can you do? 

  • Ask someone else to call on a different line or device / phone.  Your phone may be damaged or out of service, so asking another person to try can help identify if the issue is isolated to you.
  • Use a different service provider to make the call.  If your cell phone can’t get through, try your landline.  Or ask your friend or coworker, who has a different cell phone provider, to make the call.  Sometimes one provider is having an issue, but others aren’t.
  • Try texting to 911.  Sometimes a voice call won’t work, but a text will.

If you have an emergency but when you call 911 it rings but no one ever answers – what can you do?

  • Don’t hang up!  Remember that our 911 call takers and dispatchers can get very busy and while we prioritize incoming 911 calls as the first ones to answer, you may have to wait.  Our telephone system is designed to put you into a queue if we are unable to answer the phone at around 45 seconds.  You will hear a message if this happens.  Hold on the line and wait for the call taker to pick up.  I know it seems like a long time, but trust us, we are doing the very best we can.

If you have an emergency and all the above fails – what can you do?

  • Call our ten digit emergency number – 360-696-4461.  We have a restricted number of calls we can take at one time on this line, so you could hear a busy signal when you call.
  • Call 311.  Remember 311 is our non-emergency line, but these calls are delivered on a different network than our 911 calls, so if 911 is down we may be able to receive calls on 311.
  • Call the ten digit equivalent to 311 – 360-693-3111.  Sometimes the 311 short code doesn’t work for certain areas or certain providers.  If you can’t get through dialing 311 you can try the ten digit line instead.

At CRESA, we  have a talented, compassionate staff that we are not only proud of for the work they do while at CRESA, but also for their dedication to the communities they live in.  Like many jobs in Public Safety, the role of a 9-1-1 Dispatcher brings with it great stress.  This career path isn’t for everyone, and there is much more involved to be successful than just managing a switchboard.  Our 9-1-1 Dispatchers and Call-Takers need to stay professional and take the lead to help get critical details from callers, all while helping send the correct help to those in need.  

We are proud of our dedicated staff and the leaders they are outside the walls of CRESA.   Your “first” First-Responders are  dedicated to the communities they live in outside of their work hours.  The faces of CRESA run deep within the communities we serve to help make them just a little bit better!  CRESA Cares… Behind the Headset, and in Our Community!

When it’s 3-1-1… Not 9-1-1

Just a few years ago, Clark County had just one number to call to connect with their local law enforcement.  This meant that if you had a non-emergency complaint (like someone had stolen your bicycle overnight) you had no choice but to call 911 to report the crime.  Community members now can also call 311 or 360-693-3111 to reach the  same 911 dispatchers to report non-emergency issues for local law enforcement. 

Why?  Using this line helps us prioritize calls coming into the center and keeps the 911 lines open for emergencies and those that need immediate assistance! When you dial 311 you will hear a recorded message with alternate phone numbers and resources you may need. CRESA is a busy place, serving all incorporated and unincorporated areas of Clark County as the 911 answering point and dispatch center for our local law enforcement, Fire and EMS providers. The dispatchers and call takers may need to place you on hold to answer other incoming calls. Please be patient with us as the same call takers and dispatchers that answer 911 are also answering 311.

CRESA is a busy place, serving as both the 911 answering point for all of incorporated and unincorporated Clark County and is also the dispatch center for local law enforcement and fire / EMS responders. Please be patient, as the same people answering 911 emergency calls and dispatching responders are the same people answering 311.

A few guidelines to follow when deciding if you need 911 versus 311:

  • Always use 911 for any fire or medical call, no matter how minor you think the medical complaint is
  • Call 911 if your police complaints involves a gun, is a crime happening now, or a situation that requires police to prevent or stop an injury or property damage
  • 311 is the alternate number to report non-emergency law enforcement related complaints

If you are unsure, call 911 and we will get you the right help or refer you to the right resource.  

Answers to Questions You May Have:

Question: If I have a problem after hours that is not an emergency, is there another number I can call besides 9-1-1?

Answer: Yes… You can dial 311  or 360-693-3111 in Clark County.  If you have a concern about anything that is “in progress,” call 9-1-1, state the problem, the location, and a description of subjects or vehicles. We can always refer you to other agencies if we determine it is not an “in progress” emergency. Even a 5 minute delay can make the difference whether police can find the bad guy. Don’t delay; call right away!!!

Question: I called 9-1-1 and they asked me if I had an “in progress” emergency. I said “no” and they put me on hold for a long time. Why did I have to wait?

Answer: Dispatchers may need to put you on hold if you do not have an “in progress emergency. When dispatchers take “in progress” calls such as medical, (ie. cardiac arrest, choking and childbirth), armed robberies and fires, they may need to put you on hold so they can take care of priority situations. That doesn’t mean your call is not important, but some calls take priority over non-emergency calls that have taken place in the past or are not in-progress events.

Question: I called 9-1-1 for an ambulance and I got a fire truck and an ambulance. Why did you send me a fire truck too?

Answer: Every time someone calls 9-1-1 for a medical situation, dispatchers utilize medical triage software that guides your call to get you the best response for your medical emergency.  Oftentimes, a fire truck or a rescue vehicle are paired with an ambulance to get you a fast and efficient response.. Fire Crews are trained in Advanced Life Support (ALS) and Basic Life Support (BLS) treatment protocols.  Fire Crews can provide treatment prior to ambulance arrival.

A 9-1-1 Calling Guide

Calling 9-1-1 is serious business.  We want you to call 9-1-1 to receive help for emergencies, potential emergencies, or if you are not sure it is an emergency. However, if you have never had to call 9-1-1, you may be asking;

  • What happens when you call for help?
  • What should you say?
  • What does the person on the other line need to know?
  • What if you forget something?

Dispatchers are trained to pull and assess information from a caller. Expect them to guide you with questions.  They know what information they need to get first in order to ensure the right type of help arrives in a timely manner, and the best way to get the assistance you need is to answer the questions in the order they ask them.    It takes an average of 24 seconds and as long as 60 seconds sometimes JUST to confirm the location where help is needed.   Our best advice is to try to stay calm and listen and answer the questions dispatchers ask, and Know Your Location!

Here’s a quick guide to help us help You:

Let the dispatcher know what is happening. Is there a crime in progress? Is there a fire?  Does someone need medical help? This information lets our dispatchers know what type of help you need.

We want to know where the situation is occurring. Knowing your Location is critical in getting the right help as quickly as we can.  Provide an exact address if you know it and don’t forget the floor and apartment number if you are in a building.  Unsure of where you are?  A nearby intersection or landmark will help.  

When did the incident occur? It is important to know if this is an active situation so our dispatchers can prepare the first responders to know what to expect.

Let us know who is involved. We want to know if it is a family member, someone you know, or a stranger.  It also helps to know if there are multiple people involved and who they are.

If a weapon was used then let us know. Telling a dispatcher about weapons helps keep the public and first responders safe.

Tell us if anyone is injured. If someone is hurt, our dispatchers will ask you a series of questions to determine what type of care is needed.  Our dispatchers are also trained to provide medical instruction until a medic arrives.

If you speak another language or dialect tell us right away. At the push of a button, we can connect to a translator.  CRESA has translated 9-1-1 calls in more than 170 languages.  

Text to 9-1-1 is also available if it is unsafe for you to make a voice call or for individuals with hearing impairments.  Do Not use Emojis and be sure to share your location and the nature of your emergency in the first texts you send.  Remember to Call if You Can, Text if You Can’t!

Due to COVID-19 you may notice some additional questions we are asking on every call where first responders may have the opportunity to make contact with you. In order to keep both our community and responders safe, we are following medical protocols to minimize exposure and to prevent shortages in staffing.  Doing this allows us to inform our responders that additional protective measures should be taken in order to minimize exposure.

Here are the questions you can expect to hear:

1.   Has s/he had contact with someone who has or thought to have the Coronavirus?  We are trying to figure out if you, the subject or the patient has been in contact with someone who may have or was thought to have Covid-19.

2. Is there anyone at the location who has been diagnosed with or is quarantining for Covid-19?  We are asking this to determine the length of time since diagnosis or when the quarantine process started to help us determine risk.

3. Does s/he have any flu or Covid-19 like symptoms?  This would include the following:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste or smell

You will also notice that we are asking people to meet responders at the door or at the front of the facility when they arrive if it is safe to do so.  Since we know that avoiding being in close quarters with those outside our circle can also minimize our risk of exposure, you may be asked to do so.

It is important to remember the type of response is based on the emergency.  CRESA’s 9-1-1 call center receives more than 1,000 calls per day.  Not every call can or should involve emergency units traveling at high speeds with lights flashing and sirens blaring.  This type of response comes with inherent risk for the public and the first responders, but is rightly reserved for life-threatening emergencies.  Consider using 3-1-1 if your call is not an urgent life and safety call. (More on 3-1-1 Coming tomorrow)  

We hope you rarely have to call 9-1-1.  But if you, or someone else is experiencing an emergency, then keep these tips in mind.  Our 9-1-1 dispatchers will help you get the help that you need in a timely manner.  We appreciate your patience and cooperation as we work to keep one another safe.

From the Desk of Our Director

Each year during National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, we share a word from our Director, Dave Fuller highlighting the week. This Year we share a letter from Director Fuller and a few response Thank You’s we have received from the agencies and communities CRESA supports.

National Public Safety Telecommunications Week 2020

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Usually during this coming week, we would be focused on sharing stories, and tidbits of information about the amazing men and women who answer the calls 24/7.

This year however, while we would love to take the week and highlight the fantastic work this group does, we feel we need to keep our posts reserved for important information we may need to share regarding our current situation. We are extremely proud of those that wear the headset here at CRESA, and we thank them for the wonderful work they do each and every day of the year!

Each year, the second full week of April is dedicated to the men and women who serve as public safety telecommunicators.  It was first conceived by Patricia Anderson of the Contra Costa County (CA) Sheriff’s Office in 1981 after the Sheriff overlooked telling Dispatch that he was taking the administrative support team to lunch.  By the early 1990’s the national APCO organization convinced congress for a formal proclamation that was signed by President Bush in 1992.  To read more about how Patricia got the movement started you can click here.

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week helps recognize the more than 500,000 telecommunications specialists nation-wide for an amazing job done in providing excellent public safety.

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