When you call 9-1-1: How it all works | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | May 6, 2016 5:00 am
Last Updated: May 4, 2016 at 3:14 pm
When an emergency call comes in, a dispatcher faces a console with five computer screens, three computer keyboards, a pair of computer mice and assorted other pieces of equipment.
The main screen is the CAD system, surrounded by screens for the NCIC system, the radio system, the mapping system and the phone system.
The dispatchers handle all the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) requests for the county’s law enforcement agencies. The system provides nation-wide information on driver’s licenses, weapons, property and people. NCIC enables a law enforcement officer in the field to determine if the person has a valid driver’s license, if a weapon or vehicle has been reported stolen somewhere else, if the person is wanted on criminal charges anywhere in the country.
The dispatchers are also responsible for keeping and maintaining all the NCIC information sought by the officers. Monthly, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division randomly selects NCIC requests and the local dispatchers have to pull those records and provide them to SLED to determine if the system is being used correctly and the paperwork is in order.
The screen containing the radio systems has icons for each radio channel used by safety forces within the county, as well as statewide radio channels. This enables the dispatchers to switch between departments or send information to all the local departments at the same time.
Most main channels have a back-up channel, Dispatch Center Director Lt. Angela Stallings said. If one agency is handling two separate major incidents generating a lot of radio traffic, the dispatchers can put each incident on a different channel.
The mapping screen gives dispatchers computerized maps of the county to help them determine where public safety units are deployed throughout the county. If the telephone call to the dispatch center is made on a landline, a dot shows up on the map indicating where the call originated and shows which law enforcement or fire unit handles the calls at that location.
The mapping screen also shows where each Fire-Rescue ambulance is located, whether it is at the station or out on a call. That enables the dispatchers to relocate ambulances. For instance if the ambulance stationed at Edisto Beach is handling a call, the ambulance based in Green Pond is dispatched to Edisto Beach to cover the station in case there is another call for service at the beach.
If Green Pond’s ambulance is out on a call, then the ambulance based in Cottageville is relocated. If Cottageville is also busy, the ambulance based on Hendersonville Highway is sent on its way.
The phone screen contains the Automated Number Indicator and the Automated Location Indicator — the reason there is an E in front of 911. The E stands for enhanced.
Stallings said that more and more calls for service are coming from cell phones. When that call comes in, ANI-ALI gives the dispatchers the number and tells them which cell tower the call came from — information that helps them determine the approximate area. “It gives us a rough idea of where the call is coming from,” Stallings explains. Often, the callers don’t know exactly where they are, especially travelers on I-95.
More than once the technology has been deployed to find an approximate location for a lost or injured hunter in the woods.
In the near future, dispatchers will get a sixth computer screen. The new screen will provide all the first aid information that is currently contained on cards. The dispatchers, for certain medical calls, can provide that information to the caller so they can begin providing first aid to a victim while the paramedics are on the way.
The dispatchers also have three computer keyboards in front of their station. One is used to type in CAD entries and to obtain NCIC information; the second is used as part of the telephone system.
The third keyboard is for the radio system. Ninety-nine percent of the time, Stallings said, the dispatchers use a computer mouse instead of the keyboard to handle the radio system.