911 dispatchers have the enormous responsibility of making sure that distress calls receive the most efficient and accurate responses possible. They are well aware that often times lives hang in the balance, and that any mistakes or errors in judgment that they might make could be the difference between life and death. According to a dispatcher who works in one of the emergency dispatch centers in St. Louis, Missouri, “The job requires tremendous focus, and dispatchers have no indication of what they are about to face when they answer a call.”
The communities in which 911 dispatchers operate are largely unaware of the process involved in answering these critically important calls, which is why the 911 Citizens Academy in St. Louis is offering to educate the public on how their 911 system works.
One of the main misunderstandings about 911 operators and the process that is involved in answering calls is that callers assume the dispatchers know immediately where the caller is. Fifteen years ago that was more often the case since the majority of calls came from landlines. However, with the proliferation of cell phones it is much more difficult for most of the country’s 911 systems to triangulate a call and determine where it is coming from.
There is also a certain degree of misuse of the 911 system. Often people will call the system looking for services completely unrelated to emergency police, fire or medical emergencies. In fact, the St. Louis emergency call center has seen a concerning number of calls requesting rides somewhere, as if the caller were looking for a taxicab service.
It is for these and other reasons that the 911 Citizens Academy in St. Louis is offering to educate citizens on how the 911 process works from the inside, and what services the system does and does not offer the public. This is being done in an effort to further streamline the process and make it more efficient.
Administrators understand that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about how the system works and they want to clarify these issues and answer questions.