Public Info

The purpose of this section is to help you understand how 911 works and to prepare you for making 911 calls in the future.

The South Bay Regional Public Communications Authority can help you understand the processes involved in making reports, giving descriptions, and what to expect when you make a 911 call.

When you pick up the telephone to make a call, you usually know what you are going to say, to a friend, a family member or a business contact. But, it seems when you need police, fire, or ambulance services it's hard to know what to say and dispatchers always seem to ask what you think are a lot of unnecessary questions.

Those questions are asked for a good reason. Dispatchers are not there with you and cannot see what is happening. It will help tremendously if you answer the questions as they are asked, avoiding any temptation to anticipate questions or interrupt the dispatcher. Dispatchers and responding officers depend on you to be their eyes and ears.

911 Call Process

Let's take a typical 9-1-1 call to report a suspicious person. When you call 9-1-1, computerized databases maintained by your phone company provide the phone number you are calling from and the location of the phone. If the telephone is a payphone, the database will indicate that to the dispatcher. If you are calling from a business, it indicates the name of the business. However, the information may not be accurate if you have moved recently, changed telephone numbers, or are calling from a Centrex or PBX phone. The dispatcher needs to verify your phone number and your address.

 

In addition to verifying your phone number and address, the dispatcher (call taker) will verify where help is needed. You could be calling from home to report a suspicious person poking around next door, when your neighbor is not home. In that case, you will be asked if you know your neighbor's address. If you do not know the address, you may be asked the color of the house, the proximity of the home in relation to your home.

 

Questioning will follow a distinct pattern of WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHO, WHY AND WEAPONS. Additional questions will be asked to gather specific details. Now that we know where, what are they doing? Looking over the fence? Trying to force the window on the side of the house? Going into the backyard? It's all very important if responding officers are going to catch the person.

 

Just as soon as you answer the WHAT and WHERE, the call taker can enter a call and another dispatcher can be dispatching officers. Then comes the WHO. Do you know the person? If you don't, you will need to describe them. Describing a person is not as easy as it sounds. Think of it this way--what is going to draw the eye first? The answer--larger objects and colors. If there is more than one WHO, describe one completely before moving on to the next. A good dispatcher will walk you through the description step-by-step. All additional information gathered is relayed to responding officers.

 

You may or may not know the WHY. If you don't, it's ok, but most people have a general feeling about what someone is up too. Do you think it's the boyfriend of the teenage girl trying to sneak in? Do you think it's a burglar trying to get in? Do you think it's the ex-husband up to no good? Let us know. You would be surprised how often you are right.

 

A little excited when you call in? It's OK. Just take a deep breath and relax. The dispatcher is there to help you. We just need you to help us by being our eyes and ears.

Describing a Person

Dispatchers will ask many questions but some of the most important relate to descriptions. Dispatchers cannot see or hear what you, the caller, can. The dispatcher needs the caller to "paint a picture" with words; a picture that can be relayed to the responding public safety personnel.

 

There are certain questions that a dispatcher will ask regarding person descriptions. These descriptions are then passed on to the responding officers so that they can identify the persons responsible for the crime.

 

The pictures on the right point out the method for describing a person and the manner in which the dispatcher will ask you to describe the person.

 

Other questions a dispatcher will ask are:

  • Name
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Age
  • Height/Weight
  • Scars
  • Tattoos
  • Glasses
  • Facial Hair
  • Clothing

 

Remember: Dispatchers will typically ask for clothing descriptions from head to toe and from the outside-in.

 

Example:

White male adult, late 50's, 6'/180 lbs, long gray hair, wire-rim glasses, mustache, blue baseball cap, glasses, brown jacket, white t-shirt, blue jeans, white tennis shoes.

Describing a Vehicle

Dispatchers will ask many questions but some of the most important relate to descriptions. Dispatchers cannot see or hear what you, the caller, can. The dispatcher needs the caller to "paint a picture" with words; a picture that can be relayed to the responding public safety personnel.

 

There are certain questions that a dispatcher will ask regarding vehicle descriptions. These descriptions are then passed on to the responding officers so that they can identify the vehicle trying to leave the scene of a crime.

 

Here is a list of questions a dispatcher will ask about the description:

  • Color
  • Year
  • Make
  • Body Style
  • Misc Info
  • License Plate

Fire 911 Process

Examples of calls for assistance from a fire department are:

  • The smell of leaking natural gas
  • A trash can on fire
  • You fell down and are injured
  • A house is on fire
  • Someone needs rescuing (Like on the side of a cliff)
  • A person is trapped in an elevator
  • Field or wildland fire
  • Injury car accident

 

Dispatchers follow a certain line of questioning to obtain information. For example:

  • Where is the fire?
  • What is on fire?
  • Is there anyone trapped or injured?
  • How close is the fire to another building/structure?
  • How fast is the fire burning?
  • What size is the fire?
  • Did you see anyone start the fire on purpose?
  • What did they look like?
  • Are they still there?
  • Which direction did they leave in?

 

We take the information and create a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) "Incident". This information is entered and viewed by the "Radio Dispatcher". The Radio Dispatcher reads the call and CAD tells them which fire units are closest to the call.

 

The radio dispatch may sound like this: (Note: commas are pauses)

Dispatcher - (sends out pager tones to alert the fire stations)

  • Dispatcher: "Manhattan Battalion 21, Engine 21, Engine 22, Hermosa Engine 11 report of a structure fire at 123 Manhattan Beach Blvd, cross street Highland Ave, map page T11."
  • Fire Units: "Battalion 21, Engine 21, Engine 22 responding."
  • Fire Units: "Engine 11 responding."
  • Dispatcher: "South Bay copies Battalion 21, Engine 21, Engine 22 and Hermosa Engine 11 responding."

 

Please remember to listen to the dispatcher's questions and answer them as accurately as possible. When the dispatcher is entering information into the computer, there is a format they must follow. This ensures the calls sent to the radio dispatchers have uniform information that is easy to read. This also allows them to give the responding fire units on the radio the correct information in the correct order. Remember that old game called "Telephone"? We don't want to lose anything in the translation of information.

Paramedic Rescue 911 Process

You call for the assistance of Paramedics for usually one reason -- Someone needs medical attention.  All of our fire agency's Paramedics are also firefighters.  A fire engine will usually accompany the Paramedics to each call to provide manpower support for optimum patient care. 

 

Below is a list of various medical calls we frequently receive:

  • Chest pain
  • Having difficulty breathing
  • Injury accident (police also sent)
  • A drunk person is sick (police also sent)
  • Person injured in a fight (police also sent)
  • Victim of a fall
  • Female in labor (child birth)
  • Victim of a drowning

 

We take information and create what is called an "Incident". This information is entered into our computer aided dispatch system (CAD) which is viewed by another person called the "Radio Dispatcher". The radio dispatcher then reads the call and our CAD system tells them which Paramedic unit to send to the call.

 

The radio dispatch may sound like this: (Note: commas are pauses)

  • Dispatcher - (sends out pager tones to alert the fire station)
  • Dispatcher: "Hermosa Engine 11, Rescue 11, report of a 45 year old male, victim of a fall, semi-concious with labored breathing, at 100 Pier Plaza, repeating, 100 Pier Plaza, cross of Hermosa Ave, map E15."
  • Engine 11: "South Bay, Engine 11, Rescue 11 responding."
  • Dispatcher: "Engine 11, Rescue 11 responding."

 

Dispatchers will provide medical direction over the telephone. If you call for Paramedics because your friend is having trouble breathing, the dispatcher will ask a series of questions, reading from "Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) Protocol Cards". These cards have different categories such as "Heart Attack", "Child Birth", "CPR", etc. The dispatcher will determine the chief complaint corresponding with the correct card. In this case, the "Labored Breathing" card. They read the card verbatim so as to not miss anything while giving instructions to help. Dispatchers are required to undergo an intensive certification in the use of these medical protocols and have required continuing education requirements to keep them at their best to serve you, our customers.

 

Please remember to listen to the dispatcher and answer their questions as accurately as possible. When the dispatcher is entering information into the computer, there is a format they must follow. This ensures the calls sent to radio dispatchers have uniform information that is easy to read. This also allows them to give responding Paramedic units on the radio the correct information in the correct order.

Police 911 Process

Examples of calls for police assistance are:

  • Vehicle Break-In
  • Loud Music Complaint
  • Suspicious Person
  • Missing Person
  • Shoplifting
  • Barking Dog
  • Drug dealing
  • And many, many more

 

Dispatchers follow a certain line of questioning to obtain information. For example:

  • What are you reporting?
  • Where did this occur?
  • When did this occur?
  • What is the phone number you are calling from?
  • Where are you now?
  • Are any weapons involved?
  • How many people are involved?
  • What is the specific location?
  • Has this happened before?
  • Are alcohol or drugs involved?
  • What is happening now?
  • Are you hearing or seeing anything?
  • Are there any dangerous or vicious dogs or animals in the area?
  • Are there any hazards in the area?
  • Do you want to be contacted by an officer?

 

We take that information and create what is called a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) "Incident". This information is entered and viewed by the "Radio Dispatcher". The Radio Dispatcher reads the call and determines if an officer is available to take the call.

 

Dispatch is like an emergency room at a hospital. They work on the patients that are currently there. But if a more serious case comes in (victim of a gunshot), they have to drop what they are doing and work on that person that requires immediate attention. So if you make a request for an officer and it is superceded by a higher priority call, you may have to wait.

 

A radio dispatch may sound like this: (Note: commas are pauses)

  • Dispatcher: "South Bay, eight lincoln 2."
  • Eight Lincoln 2: "Eight Lincoln 2."
  • Dispatcher: "South Bay Eight Lincoln 2, respond to a loud party at 1300 Artesia Blvd, the rp (reporting person) wants to remain anonymous and does not want contact."
  • Eight Lincoln 2: "Eight Lincoln 2 responding."

 

Please remember to listen to the dispatcher's questions and answer them as accurately as possible. When the dispatcher is entering your information into the computer, there is a format they must follow. This ensures the calls sent to the radio dispatchers have uniform information that is easy to read. This also allows them to give the officer on the radio the correct information in the correct order.