April is 911 Education Month; Harford County Department of Emergency Services promotes 911 Awareness and Proper Usage

From Harford County government:

911 has served as a vital link between the public and emergency services in Harford County and throughout the country for the past 40 years. Public education and awareness initiatives have contributed in large measure to the success of this emergency contact number during that time.

April is recognized nationally as “911 Education Month”, a time to remind citizens and visitors to our community what 911 is and how it works. The goal is to continue the never-ending process of educating as many people as possible regarding 911, it proper use and capabilities.

Commenting on “911 Education Month”, Russell J. Strickland, Director of the Department of Emergency Services said, “The 911 system is the vital connection between the public and the emergency response system in our community. It is imperative that everyone use the 911 system to for its intended use and understand that our personnel in Communications will be providing them with lifesaving instructions.”

Earlier this year, the Harford County Department of Emergency Services implemented a new process for processing fire and medical 911 calls. This was done in an effort to notify first responders of an incident promptly thus reducing the time it took them to arrive on scene. Telecommunicators now ask three specific questions: The location of the incident, the phone number of the caller and “tell me exactly what happened?” Once this information is obtained, the dispatch process begins.

However, telecommunicators will ask the caller to stay on the line in an effort to obtain further details regarding the nature of the emergency which will then be provided to the responders. “This new process has proven to be very successful, shaving valuable time off the initial notification to responders. The new process informs the callers that the call has been sent for dispatch and eliminates their fears that further questioning is delaying help getting to them” Ross Coates, Manager of the 911 Center said.

In 1967, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommended that a “single number should be established” nationwide for reporting emergency situations. The federal government and various other government officials also supported this recommendation.

During CY 2013, the Harford County Department of Emergency Services 911 Center received a total of 233,606 calls, of which 99,555 were 911 emergency calls for service, with 166,585 business calls for police and fire service.

The following guidelines are provided for using 911:

- 911 is for police, fire and medical emergencies.

- Know the location of the incident. An accurate address is critically important to emergency and first responders.

- When calling 911 pay attention to the questions from the telecommunicator.

- Do not call 911 for jokes or prank calls.

- When calling 911 do not hang up or terminate the call until told to do so by the telecommunicator.

- Speak clearly and stay calm. This will assist the 911 Center in obtaining all necessary information to process the emergency call for service.

- Presently the public cannot text a message to the Harford County 911 Center to report an emergency. 911 can only be accessed by dialing the number from a phone.

In addition to “911 Education Month”, April 13th–19th is “National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week”, the week we acknowledge those that work in the 911 Communications Center.

For further questions regarding the use of 911, contact the Harford County Department of Emergency Services at 410-638-4900 or visit the department website at www.harfordpublicsafety.org.

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