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Reporting Emergencies: Easier, faster, more efficient

21 Nov 2011 | assistant fire chief Darlene Hull

Cellular phone reporting can be complex. Broadband and Internet phones do not process 9-1-1 calls in the same way as traditional wired phones. Recently, the Fire Department discovered multiple 9-1-1 calls were repeatedly dropped by one of the top broadband phone services during attempts to transfer the calls back to the local emergency dispatch center.

Phone services have come a long way over recent years. Most areas of the country now have reliable 9-1-1 emergency reporting available to traditional wired phone customers.

But, with technology evolving at such a rapid rate, it is more important than ever to understand how to effectively report an emergency from some of the newer communication services out there.

It is important, and possible, for you to ensure your 9-1-1 call will go to the right dispatch center, no matter what service you are calling from.

There are at least three distinctly different phone services available to the average customer. There is the traditional wired phone that has been around for generations, the cellular phone, and now broadband or Internet phones that are available though your computer.

The preferred method of reporting an emergency is by calling 9-1-1 from a hard wired phone. But, as a customer of any phone service provider, it is important to understand there are variations in how 9-1-1 calls are handled and to find out the best way to report an emergency before the need arises.

Calling 9-1-1 from a traditional wired phone service is pretty straight forward and reliable. You make the call, the dispatcher gets a read out that includes the address and phone number you are calling from, you report the emergency, answer some questions, and help is on the way. If you want to make sure you can report an emergency during a power outage you need to have a phone that plugs directly into a wall outlet and does not rely on an electrical outlet to operate. Many homes with wired phone service rely solely on cordless phones or phones with integrated answering machines. Both require electricity to operate and fail during power outages.

With a cell phone it is still fairly simple to report an emergency locally. But, if you call 9-1-1 locally, your call will be sent out of the area to either Victorville or Indio and must be routed back to the emergency dispatch center closest to you. Your ability to clearly communicate your location becomes vital, as does the dispatcher’s ability to determine where to route the call. The fastest and most direct way to report emergencies in progress at the Combat Center is by calling one of the 24-hour, dedicated emergency lines at 830-3333 or 830-3334. Please take the time to program one or both numbers into your phone’s contact list before an emergency arises.

And finally, there is the new generation of service, the broadband or Internet phones, dependant on not only electricity, but also the communication line (or service provider).

The reliability of reporting emergencies through broadband or Internet phones can be affected not only by power outages and the reliability of the communication line, but is also dependant on your commitment to register your equipment and keep your personal information updated with the provider.

9-1-1 calls from these types of services don’t go directly to your nearest emergency dispatch center, or even to one close. They go to the service provider, where the personal information you provide is then cross-referenced to determine the closest emergency dispatch center. Only then is your call transferred. Or, to hasten response times, advise your service provider that the public safety answering point (PSAP) at the Combat Center is #1027.

As with cell phones, you can also report an emergency at the Combat Center using broadband or Internet services by calling the 24-hour dedicated emergency lines.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms