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Our call-takers are everyday residents of Fayette County, just like the ones who work at the grocery store, teach in our schools, plow our roads, etc. The difference is, each 911 dispatcher undergoes months worth of highly specialized training specific to the job we do and the equipment we use. For more information on what a dispatcher goes through when the phone rings at 911, please check out the "Anatomy of a 911 Call" Presentation (PDF).
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Use 911 to report a fire, accidents, injuries, or a crime. Basically, anything that requires response from police, fire, or EMS personnel. If you're not sure, it's always better to call.
Location, location, location! Know where you are at. This means a street address, or at the very least, a nearby well-known business or landmark, as well as the municipality you're calling from. Some people have a mailing address based off of a certain post office, but that's not necessarily the municipality they live in!
Make sure to answer the call-taker's questions to the best of your knowledge. These questions are vital to a fast and effective response. They are not slowing down help from getting there!
You will be asked basic questions when you dial 911: Your location, the municipality, your name, and the number you're calling from (in case the line is inadvertantly disconnected), as well as the primary problem. Almost all of the time, as soon as we have this information, help is on the way, and any further questions are not slowing the process down.
Even if you don't hear the phone ring on your end, and regardless of how quickly you think you hung up, the call still does make it to the 911 Center, and a dispatcher must still answer and investigate to make sure there is no emergency. This causes strain on resources and wastes valuable time in real emergencies!
If you have dialed in error, stay on the line, inform the dispatcher of the error, and answer any questions they may have.
Often times, if you call from a landline and hang up, and we are unable to reach you, we will send someone to check on you. Again, this ties up important police resources that could be better used in real emergencies.
As we mentioned before, the questions are not slowing down the process in any way. Once we have your location and other vital info, help is already on the way. Officer safety issues, important medical information, and other scene size-up information are gathered during this interrogation process.
We are not the ones who are responding, and the people we are dispatching need to know what kind of situation they are getting into. It's our job to paint a picture of the scene as best as we can, and the only information we can pass along to these responders is what the caller, you, tells us!
If you have witnessed a crime, we will ask for other pertinent information, which we will then pass along to police via radio. For instance, descriptions of the person committing the crime (head-to-toe), if there is a vehicle involved (color, year, make/model, body style, license plate number, if there's any damage, direction of travel, etc). This helps the responding officers to find who they're looking for.
We will also ask on any potential police call if there are any weapons or injuries. This allows us to determine if EMS needs to be dispatched, and if it is safe for officers and/or EMS personnel to respond.
Visit our non-emergency contact page. You can find non-emergency numbers for every emergency service provider in Fayette County.
We do not have any information on parades, bingo, fireworks displays, loss of power or cable TV service when it does not involve a medical or other type of emergency. We also do not send ambulances for pets.
These types of calls tie up call-takers and dispatchers and cause a slower response to real emergencies. We do not and cannot handle these types of calls.
We are, however, trying to keep and maintain a list of services within the county that provide these services. Please refer to the previous question for a link to our non-emergency contact page. It is sure to have info on how to get in touch with whatever agency is hosting your event, and we're working on adding information on veterinary hospitals, utilities, and more to the page.
There are several reasons why we verify callers' locations. As we previously stated, location is the absolute most important aspect of a 911 emergency call. In rare instances, the address that the phone company has on file for a residence is incorrect. Addressing format changes in the mid-90s (for instance, when we switched from RR and RD addresses) as well as typographical and clerical errors sometimes do happen and are beyond the dispatcher's control. That's why it is of the utmost importance to verify your location on every single call.
Additionally, with the changing technological landscape, services known as VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) which include but are not limited to magicJack and Vonage, change the way we receive your location information when you call 911. The addressing on these services is often inaccurate, as it may be based on billing addresses or outdated phone company information. It is very important that if you use these services, you provide a proper 911 address in addition to your billing address. If you don't know your 911 street address, call Jackie Fowler at our addressing department at 724-430-1277, ext. 222.
It's also important to note that if you are calling from a mobile phone, we do not receive location information. In some cases, we are able to get a general idea of where you are, but the accuracy and reliability of this technology varies based on your location, your wireless provider, your handset, and many other factors. If you don't know where you are, at least try to be aware of landmarks or businesses that are around you, cross streets, or other possible clues that may help our responders to locate you!
Rest assured, that as soon as we have sufficient information to dispatch help, it is done.
In many cases, such as for police response, calls must be prioritized by the officers according to their department policies and protocols as well as how they feel they can make the best use of manpower and resources at their disposal. Police may not be in the immediate geographical vicinity of you at the time of your call. They must be given time in order to safely travel to the scene.
In the case of EMS calls, there may be circumstances that slow down response times. Potentially dangerous scenes, such as one where an actor with weapons is on scene, or any other such situation, may cause the ambulance company to stage and wait for police arrival before proceeding to the scene in order to ensure the safety of emergency medical personnel.
As far as fire departments, a large percentage of responders in Fayette County do so on a volunteer basis. Not all fire departments are manned 24/7, and many of these responders may have to leave work, get out of bed, or come from farther away to make it to their station and respond to a call. Only the City of Uniontown has a 24/7 paid fire department in the county. Because not all of the stations are manned at all times, you must allow time for these volunteer personnel to make it to the station so that they can respond with the proper fire apparatus and equipment.
911 call-takers, dispatchers, supervisors, and administrative staff will never give a callers' name out to the media. You can choose to remain anonymous, however, in the event that we need to call back for more specific information, or if law enforcement personnel have additional questions, without knowing who you are, we will not be able to do so.
Yes. For this reason, we ask that if you have an old, unused phone and know somebody who may need it in an emergency, give it to them.
Be advised, however, that these deactivated phones are not toys for children. Several times a day we receive 911 calls from deactivated cell phones that children are playing with, during the investigation of which, we are tying up a call taker from answering emergency calls. If you have an old cell phone that you are going to let your child play with, please, take out the battery!
Unfortunately, no. If you have an animal who is sick or injured, you should seek emergency veterinary care. We have compiled a list (albeit incomplete) of animal hospitals in our local region that provide 24-hour veterinary care. It is available on our non-emergency contact page. If you are unsure what to do, please call the Fayette SPCA at 724-438-3121.
Contrary to popular belief, 911 does not dispatch fire departments to retrieve cats from trees. Although we understand that this situation can be stressful for the cat's owner, we simply cannot commit the limited resources of our volunteer fire departments to an individual cat (who will probably climb down safely eventually) when there may be life and property at risk in a real emergency.
As needs dictate, we occasionally post open positions and run a 911 dispatcher training class. An effective 911 dispatcher must be friendly and well-spoken, possess excellent computer and typing skills, and exhibit an exemplary ability to handle many tasks at once under a great deal of stress. The training class consists of approximately three months worth of intensive classroom and practical instruction, followed by a mentorship program where the new trainees sit with more experienced dispatchers until they are able to perform the job on their own. It's not for everybody, but a career as a 911 dispatcher has a completely unique set of rewards that most of us do not find in other lines of work.
To check for available positions, check Fayette County's Employment Opportunities page.