by Jennifer Kirkland
Operations Support Supervisor, Vail Public Safety Communications Center
You may have recently seen news stories talking about the challenges the 9-1-1 industry face when locating people who call 9-1-1 from a cell phone. While it is true that we face challenges in getting accurate location information from wireless carriers, the news stories left out one important factor in locating callers in emergencies: the human factor. From the beginning of 9-1-1, public education has focused on the fact that the biggest influence a caller can have in getting help quickly from police, fire and EMS is knowing his or her location. Whether you’re calling from a landline telephone, calling from a cell phone, or texting, knowing where you are is the single most important thing.
The other half of the human factor is the dispatcher answering the 9-1-1 call. Vail Public Safety Communications Center dispatchers are trained to ask a variety of questions in determining a caller’s location, and they continue asking questions until they know where the caller is. They also use a variety of technology tools at their fingertips, including the location provided by the wireless carrier, information provided by the telephone company if calling from a landline telephone, and mapping tools. VPSCC dispatchers undergo extensive geographic training to familiarize them with Eagle County-specific locations so they can assist those in crisis who may not know where they are, or may be confused.
When calling or texting 9-1-1 in Eagle County for help, there are three initial questions that will be asked. The first is “What is the address of the emergency?” The second is “What is the phone number you’re calling from?” The third is “Okay, tell me exactly what happened.” The single most important question is the location question. Always know where you are, whether it’s the restaurant or hotel name, the road or street that you are on, your mile marker on I-70 (or at least the nearest town), or the name of the apartment building you are in.
For more information, please visit www.vail911.com.