Emergency 9-1-1 Etiquette
By Richard Hannibal
We live in a laid-back, informal environment. That is one of the reasons we love living here. We know many of our police officers, politicians, city workers, and neighbors on a first-name basis. That contributes to the friendly atmosphere of the area and the open-door policy of most city leaders. However, there are times when strict protocol and regulation must be applied. One of these areas is the use of our Emergency 9-1-1 System.
When you call 9-1-1 you hear the dispatcher say, "9-1-1, what is your emergency?"
You better have an emergency or you might be curtly referred to our business line, 772-6225. Children on your lawn or the local fast food place shorting you on your french fries are not emergencies. 9-1-1 must be used only for emergencies or the potential for one, such as reporting a drunk driver. I know this is simple, common sense information, but you would be surprised at the number of people who call 9-1-1 for such things as: "When does the library open?" or "There's an abandoned car on my street that's been there three weeks." or "The construction workers across the street have their radio on too loud."
When making a valid 9-1-1 call, quickly be as brief as possible, giving the problem, the location, your name, and whatever else the dispatcher asks. Be prepared for lots of questions from the dispatcher—such as a suspect description, direction of travel, any weapons involved, or any vehicles involved, etc. Also be prepared to be put on hold while emergency personnel are dispatched via radio. The call must be brief so our dispatcher can send the necessary emergency personnel. Remember, while the dispatcher is answering a non-emergency 9-1-1 call, he/she may be delayed in answering a true emergency call.
While we are on the topic, a recent homicide highlighted other problems with the use of our dispatch system. In the height of the chaos, people were calling dispatch simply to find out what was going on. We usually have only one dispatcher on duty and during a major event that dispatcher is inundated with many tasks. As an example, during the recent shooting incident the dispatcher had to dispatch and coordinate responding police, fire, and ambulance personnel along with police volunteers. She had to ask for and coordinate responding sheriff's deputies, crime lab personnel, CHP personnel and answer calls from the press. She was also answering non-related emergency calls, one of which was a domestic violence in progress. All this time she was keeping track of the incident on the computer and coordinating efforts with our on-scene police incident commander. It seems needless to say that she had little time for non-emergency calls or keeping the curious updated.
So, if you have a true emergency, or vital information relating an emergency, don't hesitate to call 911. That is what we are here for. If it is business related, don't hesitate to call 772-6225.