It never stops amazing me how people who have even lived in the same area for 20 or more years still do not know where they are. People who travel back and forth to work everyday don’t know the towns they travel through, the roads they’re traveling on, or even sometimes can’t even describe the vehicle that they’re operating.
People have ideas that if you call 911 that we know instantly where they are and it is not true. Movies and TV Shows lie I’m sure some books do too but generally I like to think authors tend to do a bit more research. Even if we have a good fix on the GPS on a cell phone imagine if it’s good to 500 feet and you’re in an urban area or even just a small apartment complex of say 10 apartments what apartment is that call coming from? If you have 4 buildings in that 500 foot area and they’re each 10 stories tall that’s 50 floors worth of businesses and apartments to comb through.
So here are some tips on things you can do to help 911 help you (or your community):
- Pay Attention — Especially when you aren’t sure where you are keep a look out for landmarks and street signs. Even if you’re not exactly sure where you are on a street chances are if you have a road name and at least a business or landmark local authorities maybe able to figure out where you are. Even if you are familiar with your route of travel pay attention to the intersections you pass or mile markers if appropriate.
- Jurisdiction — Every State is different unfortunately but you should know what jurisdiction you are in. Sometimes mailing addresses do not match up for instance: 10 Main Street, Smithville maybe your street address because that is the closest post office however you maybe in Johnsville Township. When contacting a 911 center that may cover multiple jurisdictions they may not be able to find a 10 Main Street in Smithville but 10 Main Street, Johnsville will work regardless of where the mail is sent. You should know what areas that you live in and their official names are incase a situation like this arises.
- Know your Vehicle — All vehicle owners should be aware of the description of their vehicle as well as their license plate numbers so that it can be accurately described to Law Enforcement or other responding agencies in an emergency. Remember that you may not always have your vehicle in front of you or registration to tell police. Think about it: You are at the gas station you walk inside accidentally leaving the keys to your vehicle with it and when you come outside and it’s gone. If you don’t know your license plate without seeing it how can you give it to Law Enforcement?
- Know your Surroundings — Some areas have roads that have the same names in bordering towns or even in some cases you can have a 1 Main St in the same jurisdiction twice. It is important that you know the surrounding areas where you live especially if you are new to an area. At the very least you should know the two “cross” streets to your address. In other words if you live at 10 Main Street which two intersections does your house fall between? By having cross streets you can assist 911 with confirming the location of your residence.
- Long Distance Help — Another situation that arrises sometimes is that people discover emergencies that are a long distance away. If Mary is talking to her mother in California but resides in Rhode Island when she dials 911 she is not going to get the appropriate agency to seek help for her mother. The Agency answering the phone will need to assist and attempt to gain information to find where they need to call and it may not always be something that can be done quickly. If you have relatives especially ones who are elderly or ill you should keep their address someplace safe and accessible and if possible have contact numbers to their local responding agencies.
- Listen — Most importantly when you call 911 prepare to LISTEN it is important to not just blurt out your problem. Most agencies will go straight into their interrogation with saying something like: “911 where is your emergency?” If a dispatcher stops you to ask questions they are not interrupting you they need to know specific information in order to serve you faster and better. Saying things like “Hurry Up”, “Just get here now!”, or “I shouldn’t have to answer these stupid questions” will not make things go faster. Questioning doesn’t slow down help it enhances the help you will receive by arguing or complaining you are only delaying your own assistance.