HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is saluting the state’s emergency dispatchers for their vital role in responding to emergency situations as part of National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week, April 11-17.
“Pennsylvania’s 9-1-1 telecommunicators work every day of the week, every holiday and every weekend,” said PEMA Director Robert P. French. “This week is a good chance for us to recognize their hard work and make an effort to learn what we need to do to make it easier for them to help us.”
In Pennsylvania, 69 public safety answering points serve as the primary point for answering 9-1-1 calls and dispatching police, fire and emergency medical services.
Approximately 4,300 telecommunicators answer more than 9 million 9-1-1 calls each year, providing life-saving medical instructions to callers; contacting law enforcement, transportation and public works departments; activating weather alerts; and managing requests for specialized response teams such as coroners, SWAT teams and accident reconstruction teams.
French reminded the public that 9-1-1 is for police, fire and medical emergencies, and offered the following tips and guidelines for when an emergency call is necessary:
• Know the location of the incident. Providing an accurate address is critically important especially when making a wireless 9-1-1 call.
• When you call 9-1-1, pay attention to the questions being asked. Additional questions 9-1-1 call takers may ask are designed to assist police, fire or medical personnel when they arrive on the scene. In many instances, the answers to these questions are provided to the first responders while they are enroute to the emergency, which does not delay their response.
• Stay on the line with the 9-1-1 call taker and answer all questions. The more information they have, the better they are able to help.
• Stay calm and speak clearly.
French warned citizens to never call 9-1-1 as a joke or prank. Pranksters face a third degree misdemeanor, punishable by fines and up to one year in prison.
He also said to never call 9-1-1 to request or report road conditions. When calling 9-1-1 to report an emergency, it is critical for callers to stay on the line, even if for an extended series of rings, until the operator answers. Hang-ups due to frustration result in wasted staff time as the 9-1-1 center tries to reestablish contact.
Anyone who accidentally dials 9-1-1 should not hang up. When the 9-1-1 center answers, simply explain to the call taker that the telephone call was accidently made and there is no emergency. Telecommunicators are trained to return 9-1-1 abandoned or hang-up calls. If they do not receive an answer, the caller’s information will be immediately relayed to the appropriate law enforcement agency for them to respond to the location provided and verify if there is an emergency.
French reminded Pennsylvanians of available resources that can help them prepare and respond to emergencies. At www.ReadyPA.org or by calling 1-888-9-READYPA, families can find downloadable materials such as home and car emergency kit checklists and emergency plan templates.