Two Things 9-1-1 Wants You To Know

There are things you should know before calling 9-1-1.
Rod Rice reports on an effort to get people to use the
emergency number correctly.

The Greater Harris County 9-1-1 network wants you to know two things about 9-1-1.

“Knowing your location when you call on a cell phone, and the importance of calling 9-1-1 only for a true life or property threatening emergency.”

That’s the 9-1-1 network’ Sonya Lopez-Clauson. She says it’s important to know where emergency services are needed because the Greater Harris County 9-1-1 Network covers two counties and 48 municipalities.

“It’s important to tell the 9-1-1 call takers your street name, spell the street name, your intersections, your landmarks because we’ve got various jurisdictions here and a lot of the street names sound the same as other jurisdictions.”

Dr. David Persse is the Houston EMS Director.  He says there are a limited number of ambulances and they should only be used for emergencies. Too many people use them to go to the emergency room for non-life threatening emergencies. That cost time and money.

“We really need the public to be judicious about when they use emergency services. We would like them to start using clinics and their private doctor more often. Now, we realize that’s not as convenient as the emergency department, but our emergency services are really getting stretched to the limit, and it could become dangerous.”

Dr. Persse says before calling 9-1-1 take a moment to collect your thoughts and get a bearing on where you. He says that information should be given first so that if the call is lost help can be dispatched.  And he says tell the call taker as much information about the situation as you can get. He says emergency services can be delayed by calling 9-1-1 and just saying an ambulance is needed at a certain location.

“The call taker is going to have a few questions beyond just the location to get a description about what the emergency is. That’s important because that then determines exactly what type of resources we send.  In reality emergency services, police, fire and EMS, have become very sophisticated over the last couple of decades, and we have a number of different response modes which we try to tailor to what the emergency is, so we need some information. The questions are very simple, they’re yes/no for the most part, they’re designed so that a child could answer them.”

Dr. Persse says they don’t want to send less than what is needed, but they also don’t want to send more than what is needed.

He says the system works best when 9-1-1 is used only for emergencies, the caller knows the location and the 9-1-1 operator gets answers to some additional questions.

“It really is important that people know what to expect when calling 9-1-1. When the calls come in and people know what to expect the calls go very smoothly; we get the information very quickly; and we send the right recources the first time.”