Maryland

Get the 411 on what happens when you call 911

Get the 411 on what happens when you call 911

SALISBURY, Md. - "Wicomico 911 do you need police fire or ambulance?'

No matter the situation, that's exactly what you'll hear every time you call 911 in Wicomico County. 

"We handle medical emergencies, fire emergencies and police emergencies." 

Emergencies that rack up to about 75 thousand calls each year and even though that first line is always the same, each call ends up vastly different.

"One of the operators from Wicomico 911 is going to answer the phone on the telephone system and they will find out your emergency. From there they would document and log everything on the computer aiding dispatch. That helps us keep track of the information we ask and what units were going to send out to your emergency," says Chris Hopkins, Chief Communications Supervisor.

What many may not know is once 911 knows your location and the type of first responder you need, even though they're still asking you questions, help is already on the way.

"We realize that everyone has a different type of emergency and emergencies mean other things to different people but we do our best to the get address and the nature, those points are very critical in us sending units." 

Even though first responders are on already on their way, a 911 dispatcher's job isn't complete just yet. 

Once verifying the caller's names and location, more work follows. 

"If you're calling for chest pain we're going to document it and then we're going to get into a series of questions that are critical for the first responders. It gives them an update on what they're responding to." 

There's a check list for dispatchers for everything, from a head ache to giving CPR even pregnancy questions.

That way by the time first responders arrive, they are more than prepared to deal with the emergency.

"We're going to send help as soon as we can at all times." 

The 911 center tells us it's crucial that they find out where the person is, but understand that in some cases people don't know exactly where they are. 

That's why they tell us even just looking at a street sign or an intersection, even a business name helps them pinpoint exactly where you are. 

And if callers don't speak English, they can accommodate. 

In the case that a caller doesn't speak English, the 911 dispatcher will immediately call a third party while staying on the line. 

No matter the language, whether it's Spanish even Haitian, they can provide the assistance needed.  

"We treat that call same as any other call. We just have to involve a translator and which we would transfer the caller to the language line and that provides a three way call so that we can ask the normal questions that we would ask if someone speaks English," says Hopkins. 

And with any emergency if necessary, dispatchers will stay on the line with you until help has arrived. 
 


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