911 Where Is Your Emergency?

December 14, 2016


Here is everything I knew about calling 911.

I had an emergency, made the call, and in a short amount of time a police officer was at my door ready, willing and able to offer assistance. There is so much more to it.

The WPB Police Department recently held a power point presentation explaining the procedure from the moment the call is answered to the moment the officer is standing at your door.
The presentation was made by Ms. Candace Gaines, Training Coordinator who’s responsibility includes training a staff of 26 Dispatchers. Also included in the presentation was Ms. Suzette Dodd, who holds the title “Telecommunications Manager Dispatch Operations” and her Assistant Manager Ms. Natasha Potter who has 30 years experience with the city.

“Where is Your Emergency?” is the first question asked. A caller needs one of three departments: Police, Fire, or Medical Assistance. If Medical Assistance is needed the call is transferred.

This story includes a picture of 5 computer screens all being used while the call is being answered. (To enlarge the picture, click on)

1 Screen on left is for the phone.
2 Top Screen is a city map which shows the location of the call being made.
3&4 Two middle Screens are CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch)
5 Screen on right is the radio.
Note of interest: The city has installed the Harris P 25 radio system and the people who use it told me they liked the system. You may remember a few years ago the city considered going with “Open Sky” system which had many problems. It appears to me the city made the right decision.

The presentation started with an actual call the city received from a man who walked into his home to find his mother had been stabbed.
The son was crying hysterically and I was having difficulty following the conversation. The dispatcher was attempting to keep the man calm while asking pertinent questions.

“Is your mother breathing? (asked that particular question 4-5 times)
“Is anyone else in the home?”
“Is your mother bleeding?”
The man was pleading for help and wanted help immediately, and I know at that particular time I wouldn’t want to answer questions. But the questions I learned were critical. An armed intruder may have still been present, being a danger to the man and the responding police officers.

Now the whole time the dispatcher is asking questions, the 2nd. screen (city map) is showing where the call is originating from and the police have already been dispatched to the area with lights and sirens running. All they need now is the address.
This particular call lasted approximately 6-7 minutes and the dispatcher stayed on the line with the caller until the police arrived. Heartbreaking situation, but what’s important to understand is the questions being asked do not delay response time.

The second call was from a man who called police to report men were breaking into cars, and he was watching them do it. He gave dispatch the street name, and there was a continued conversation between the two. After a few minutes had passed he said he could hear the police sirens approaching. The thieves hearing the sirens tried to run and hide in the bushes but the caller told dispatch where the men were hiding, and she relayed the information to the officers. Next thing we heard was the caller all excited saying “the cops got them, the cops got them” Happy ending for everyone but the thieves.
The man in the second call asked to remain anonymous, and his phone no. was deleted from the system.

The city has bilingual operators, and if one is not working shift, a translator service is used to interpret between the dispatcher and resident needing assistance.
200 hours of training are needed for phone operators and 500 hours for radio dispatch, and all operators are certified by the state and must pass a state exam.

From Jan. 2016 until Nov.2016:
911 calls 126,872 incoming calls were received.
Non emergency 137,063 incoming calls were received.

We were told people called 911 asking if Sun Fest was canceled because of the rain, where was the boat show being held?

There is a non-emergency number for the police department and it is 822-1900. If you come home to find your child’s bike has been stolen 822-1900 is the number to call. An officer will take a report, and an attempt to locate the bike will be made.

Phone numbers you may find helpful:

Detective (C.I.D.) 822-1700
House Watch 822-1634
Crime Prevention 822-1620
Code Enforcement 822-1465
Records 822-1880

TIPS (Remain Anonymous)
Crimes 822-1701
Narcotics 822-1800

In a perfect world a police cruiser would arrive when the crime was in progress, the officer would witness the crime, arrest the culprit and bring them to justice. It is not a perfect world.
We are the eyes and ears of the police department and our help is needed. The man who witnessed men breaking into cars made the decision to get involved saved his neighbors the cost of replacing car windows, time off from work to have the work done, and most important peace of mind. If you see something and won’t get involved, don’t complain about crime.

NOTE: I just received an invitation to attend “Coffee With A Cop” and this one appears different and geared toward children. Here are the specifics.

When: Saturday Jan. 14, 2017 between 10:00 AM –1:00 PM
Where: McDonald’s 1720 Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard WPB Fl.

There will be children’s activities including face painting, free Child
Safety ID, Motorcycles and Vehicles, and always popular with
children and adults meet the K9 dogs and their handlers. There will be
free coffee for the adults, and ice cream for the kids. I understand
Ronald McDonald will attend. Bring your camera and take their picture
with Ronald and the K9 dogs.