The most important piece of information that the dispatcher will need is the location of the emergency. Help cannot come to you if the help doesn’t know where you are. In most jurisdictions, including Sacramento County, computer aided dispatch (CAD) systems allow dispatchers to automatically access a caller’s address and phone number if the caller is using a landline telephone. Automatic location information for cellphones is becoming more common but its accuracy may vary with how old the phone’s technology is and how many cell phone towers are nearby.
Regardless of what information comes up on the computer screen, at the Sacramento Regional Fire/Emergency Communications Center (SRFECC), the dispatcher’s first question will be: “Where is the emergency located?”
The next priority for the dispatcher will be to gather your phone number so that they can call you back in the event that you are disconnected. The dispatcher will then ask for the nature of the emergency. Once the location and type of emergency are established, the dispatcher will immediately alert the nearest response units and those units will respond to the emergency. The response may consist of a fire engine and an ambulance, a police unit, or even several of each depending on the situation.
911 dispatchers are highly trained, uniformed public safety officials. They endeavor to dispatch emergency response units as quickly as possible. Once units are on the way, the dispatcher may end the call - for instance if you are reporting a vehicle accident for which they have already received multiple calls. Conversely, the dispatcher may continue to ask questions so that they can pass on to the response units the clearest picture of what is going on at the emergency. The dispatcher may also give you potentially life-saving instructions such as directing you to immediately exit a burning structure or how to perform CPR on an unresponsive person. Do not hang up until the dispatcher instructs you to do so.
Call 911 whenever you experience an emergency. Be prepared to provide the location of the emergency and your phone number. Do your best to stay calm and answer the dispatcher’s questions. The dispatcher is a highly-trained professional who will send help to you as soon as possible. Follow the dispatcher’s instructions - it may save a life.