April 15, 2011

Telecommunicators Week

This week is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week and the Sheriff’s Office would like to recognize the diligence and professionalism of our Telecommunicators – Sheriff’s dispatchers - who serve in our communications center in Marathon.

For forty years 9-1-1 has served as the vital link between the American public and emergency services, and it is with great pride that our highly skilled Public Safety Dispatchers who have contributed substantially to the apprehension of criminals, suppression of fires, and treatment of patients be recognized for their efforts.

"Our Sheriff’s Office dispatchers fill a crucial role in our response to calls for service,” said Sheriff Bob Peryam. “Our agency could not perform the vital function of responding to calls for help without them. They are the first contact people have – they set the tone and dispatch the emergency services. They are oftentimes the lifeline until an officer can respond. We all truly appreciate them, and the job the do for the citizens of Monroe County,” he said.

Public Safety Agencies nationwide take one week a year - the second full week in April - to recognize the pivotal role played by telecommunicators, dispatchers, communications operators, radio control personnel - ALL those people, by whatever job title, who utilize telephones, radios, computers and technical skill to provide support to Law Enforcement, Fire Services, Emergency Medical Services and other governmental field personnel. Each year, National Telecommunicator's Week is dedicated to the men and women who serve as public safety telecommunicators. In 1991, Congress proclaimed it as a special national week of recognition.

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office would like everyone to take a little time to think about the crucial role played by our Sheriff's Office Communications Officers. They handle thousands of phone calls, dispatch deputies, firefighters and paramedics, and do their utmost to keep the public safe as they perform one of the most stressful positions in law enforcement. In 2005, they handled 116,586 Law Enforcement calls for service, 4,478 medical calls and 682 fire calls.

In honor of these dedicated men and women, here is a review of the rules to follow when you call 911 to report a crime or emergency:

The 911 System

911 is an emergency response service provided by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office to assist the citizens of our county with receiving law enforcement, fire, and ambulance assistance during crisis times. Sheriff’s Office Communications Officers man special emergency phone lines 24 hours a day so that the citizens of Monroe County may receive help as expeditiously as possible. The Sheriff's Office answers these emergency phone lines for the Key Colony Beach Police as well as Firefighters and ambulances county wide.

At the same time as they answer 911 calls, Sheriff' s Office Communications Officers also answer non- emergency calls on regular phone lines. Obviously, someone in a crisis situation will get assistance prior to someone calling with a non-emergency situation.

When Should You call 911?

911 Emergency calls should be made only in cases such as a crime in progress, a fire, a medical emergency, or a similar immediately threatening case. A possible 911 situation can involve something you see - a burglar breaking in to a neighbor’s house, a fire, an automobile accident. It can also involve what you hear - a woman screaming or yelling "Don’t hit me again," gunfire, an explosion or glass breaking. Also, a suspected drunk driver is always a 911 call. They’re potential killers not only of themselves, but of innocent bystanders as well.

Before you call, gather as many facts as you can under the circumstances and write them down so you won’t forget them. Take a second look - a minute gathering more complete information may be worth the delay. If you are describing a person, important points include the race of the person, whether it is a male or a female, what the person is wearing, the color of his or her hair and any other outstanding characteristics. With a car description, a tag number is great if you can get it, and a report that the vehicle had a ladder on top or a dented left front fender is more useful than simply describing the vehicle as a "white van".

The job of the communications officer is to gather as much pertinent information relative to the situation as possible and to keep you on the phone if at all possible. This action better prepares deputies coming to your aid.

What to expect when you call 911

When you call 911 emergency lines, one of the first things you will be asked is "Is this an emergency? This question is a necessary one because unfortunately, some people do call 911 for non-emergencies. Communications Officers must often deal with 911 calls for directions, weather conditions or traffic information. This misuse of 911 is unacceptable, and has the potential of delaying true emergency calls.

Once it is established that you do have an emergency situation, the Communications Officer will ask you a series of questions in an effort to get enough information so he/she can send the proper assistance to you as soon as possible. Try to answer the questions as calmly and clearly as possible. Help will be sent to you right away, and the more cooperative you are over the phone, the faster that help will arrive. When you call 911, a computerized system will automatically tell the Communications Officer your address and phone number. If you have any special medical conditions you can register that information with the Sheriff’s Office and that information can be included in the system, and will be available to Communications officers when you call. The officer will continue to talk with you after help has been dispatched to you. The longer he/she can keep you on the phone and the more information that can be relayed to the responding deputy, ambulance or fire truck, the better and safer the situation is.

Communications officers in Monroe County are trained in Emergency Medical Dispatching. This means if you have a medical emergency, the Communications Officer will be able to assist you with initial treatment steps, such as performing CPR, the Heimlich Maneuver for choking victims, or other common medical emergencies.

Misuse of the 911 Emergency system

Unfortunately a substantial number of 911 calls received by MCSO Communications Officers are not of an emergency nature. If you are reporting a non-emergency situation such as a suspicious person, a previously stolen bike or a dog continually barking, 911 is not the proper number to call. The Sheriff’s Office offers non-emergency phone numbers for the reporting of such calls. Your call will still be handled appropriately, but this will allow true emergencies to be handled first.

Let me re-emphasize: 911 is for emergency calls only and is not equipped to answer questions, give directions, weather forecasts or road conditions. How would you like it if you had a real emergency and someone else was tying up the Communications Officer asking where the closest post office is? To report a non-emergency call, the following phone numbers may be called 24 hours a day: 305-745-3184, 305-289-2430, 305-853-3211, 305-289-2351.

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