Calls to 911 come in at all hours, 365 days a year and there is always a human being on the other end of the line.
The week of April 8-14 is celebrated as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week to recognize the people who do this work.
In Carroll County, the Emergency Communications (9-1-1 & Dispatch) Center provides emergency 911 service to visitors and citizens. Emergency Communications Manager Jack Brown took the time to praise all of the Center's "highly trained and dedicated folks," for their work everyday.
"They are truly the first First Responder to any emergency reported by 9-1-1," he wrote in an email.
One of these folks is Charles D. "Charlie" Green, Jr., who has been working in the county for seven years and currently serves as an emergency communications specialist supervisor.
The Times caught up with Green to talk about a typical day, the first call he handled and what you should know if you need to call 911.
Q: What is your job title, and how long have you been working in this position?
A: I started with Carroll County seven years ago as an emergency communications specialist 1 and have promoted through the ranks, becoming an emergency communications specialist supervisor seven months ago.
Q: Is there a typical work day for you or is every day different? What time of day or night do you work, if there is a typical time?
A: On a typical day, as soon as I arrive, the first thing I do is speak with the person in charge of the shift being relived in order to find out what happened during the prior shift and what, if any issues need to be taken care of. As soon as I log into the computer system, I check my work email for any events, issues, or information that may have been passed along.
There are three main operational functions in the Communications Center: Fire (which includes EMS), Police, and Call-Taking. As appropriate during my shift, I regularly review and assign the on-duty personnel to various functions/positions within the center, as well as review and update the personnel scheduled for the following shift. Supervisors routinely assist with training personnel and updating the wide variety of information contained in Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD). These activities occur while continuously answering 911 calls and monitoring/conducting radio communications. Full-time staff work a rotating shift consisting of two 12-hour days, then two 12-hour nights, followed by four days off.
Q: What drew you to working in public safety?
A: I grew up in a public safety family. All of my grandparents were, and both parents are active in the local fire department. I have been in the fire department since I was 11, starting as a Junior Member; and even before that, I can remember being at the fire station with my parents. For me, it's about giving back to the community while pursuing a fulfilling career.
Q: Would you say that first responder/public safety technology has evolved since you first began?
A: As technology has changed, so has the public safety world. We're able to obtain more accurate locations of callers using cell phones, our mapping capabilities are constantly improving and we now have the ability to visually monitor the location of units using GPS data displayed on a spatially accurate map. Late last year (October 2017) we completed an upgrade of our CAD system; the new system offers new and additional options for how we operate, such as the previously mentioned visual display of unit locations on a map. Units operating in the field are now able to interact with the Dispatch Center, as well as other field units, using Mobile Data Terminals (MDT)/Mobile Digital Computers (MDC) installed in the apparatus. Before we couldn't tell where a unit was in relation to an incident scene; now, thanks to an advanced combination of unit location monitoring and mapping solutions, we can. We anticipate Text-to-911 being operational in Carroll County before year's end. And then there's the pending transition to 'Next Generation' or 'Next Gen' 9-1-1 that will involve a much greater utilization of modern technology.
Q: Do you remember the first 911 call you ever handled?
A: Honestly, I can't remember my first call. When you consider that occurred seven years ago, combined with the amount of calls we answer, it's hard to remember them all. That said, I do remember being nervous; I wanted to make sure I did everything correctly and sent the help that was needed, as quickly as I could.
Q: If you are willing to speak about it, is there a call that sticks out very strongly in your mind?
A: No one call sticks out to me, but any call involving kids always stays in the back of my mind.
A: The most rewarding part of the job is being able to get help started to those in need. We are the first person people reach out to and interact with when they need help. Fortunately, we're able to give instructions to callers to assist them with managing the situation at hand until first responders arrive. Whether it's instructing a caller on how to control bleeding or perform CPR, ensuring they get out of a bad situation they may be in, or just being a calming voice until help arrives, it's all very rewarding.
Q: Is there anything else that you wanted to mention?
A: There are a number of things people should know regarding calling 9-1-1:
First, 9-1-1 is intended for reporting, or requesting assistance with, an emergency.
Second, most everyone has a cell phone, and as might be expected, the vast majority of calls to 9-1-1 are now made using one; but unfortunately, we don't always initially know the location of cell phone caller. When someone calls 9-1-1 using a cell phone, the first thing determined is with which communications tower the call is affiliated; by remaining on the phone with 9-1-1, the more accurately the location of a cell phone caller can be determined. Clearly, that does require a little more time; and even then, it still may not be exact.
Third, if you accidentally call 9-1-1, please don't hang up. Instead, simply stay on the line, advise the person that answers that the call was accidental, and confirm that you don't have an emergency. As a matter of protocol, we attempt to call back any call to 9-1-1 where we're unable to make voice contact.
Last, should you ever need to call 9-1-1, it may seem as though you're being asked a lot of questions. Please rest assured this does not delay help being sent. The answers to the questions asked allow us to update field units as to the situation they are responding to; they may even warrant giving additional or different instructions, depending on the answers given and situation reported.
Emergency Communications/9-1-1 Centers have come a long way since the first call to 9-1-1 was made just over 50 years ago. As advancements and improvements in technology occur, so will our capabilities.