In 2008, the United States Congress officially recognized April as National 911 Education Month to support the efforts of the National 911 Education Coalition.
The number “911” is the universal emergency number for everyone inside of the United States to dial for emergency assistance. According to Waldenu.edu, around 240 million 911 calls are placed every year across the United States—that is an average of 600,000 per day. While not all of those calls are real emergencies, it is important to teach and know what happens when calling 911. This knowledge allows Emergency Telecommunicators to best assist the callers in their time of need.
Emergency Telecommunicators, also commonly referred to as 911 call takers or dispatchers (depends on your area), are the first trained point of contact in times of emergency.
Jen Swisher, Director of the Berkeley County, WV Emergency Communications, explains what happens when you call 911.
“When calling 911 the call will be answered by a certified professional Emergency Telecommunicator. The Telecommunicator uses protocols developed by The International Academy of Emergency Dispatch. Callers will be asked questions which will not only assist the caller, but the 911 Telecommunicator and responders.
Callers will be asked questions which have been developed so that they are asked the same to anyone who calls 911. Questions that are asked regardless of the type of emergency include: What’s the address of the emergency? What’s the phone number you’re calling from? and Okay, tell me exactly what happened? These questions allow the Emergency Telecommunicator to determine what emergency responders will need to respond to assist the caller, such as Police, Fire and EMS. These questions are imperative since they will impact the ability for the responders to find and assist those in need of their help.
It is very important for anyone calling 911 to know the importance of answering all of the questions they are asked. It is never too early to begin teaching children the phone number on the phone which they may have to use to call 911 and their address. One way to help children learn their phone number and address is to post it in places throughout the house, such as the refrigerator, and quiz them on it often. There are many times that a small child may need to call 911 when assistance is needed and may their ability to answer be the difference between a life or death circumstance.
While the incident is being dispatch to emergency responders, the Telecommunicator will ask the caller additional questions which are specific to the emergency they are calling 911 about. The Emergency Telecommunicator may also provide life-saving assistance such as CPR, bleeding control and child birth instructions.
It is important to remember that the emergency telecommunications professionals are there to assist you until the emergency responders arrive on the scene. They are the calming voice at the other end of the phone there to assist you during your emergency situation.”
Director Jen Swisher has 26 years of Emergency Service experience—particularly in emergency communications. She began as a dispatcher with Washington County, Md. Division of Emergency Services and then moved through ranks prior to retirement. In fall of 2020, Director Swisher retired from Washington County as the Deputy Director of Administration and then began her current role in Berkeley County.
For more resources and information on 911, check out the links below:
Kari’s Law requires direct dialing to 911 for all multi-line telephone systems—like those found in office buildings, campuses and hotels. In laymen’s terms, this means that you do not have to dial “9” prior to “911” to call 911 on phones where you have to to call outside of the building.
It also requires notification to someone in the building so that:
- They know someone dialed 911
- Provide a valid call back number
- Provide the caller’s location.
Kari’s Law was enacted in 2018 by Congress and took effect on February 16, 2020.
Kari’s Law is named in honor of Kari Hunt, who was murdered by her estranged husband in a motel room in Texas in 2013. Ms. Hunt’s 9-year-old daughter did what she was taught when her mother was in danger and called 911. Unfortunately, her daughter was not aware that she had to dial “9” first. Despite trying multiple times, she was unable to reach 911.
For more information about Kari’s Law, check out the FCC’s website here: https://www.fcc.gov/mlts-911-requirements
For more information about Kari and her father’s journey to change the system, check out an FCC podcast about Kari’s Law here: https://www.fcc.gov/news-events/podcast/personal-story-behind-karis-law
Originally Posted: April 7, 2021