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Since my 911 call experience last week, I've been researching 911 protocols and practices. I've talked to several people high up in the chain of North Carolina 911 officials.
Before last week, I always thought that you called 911 and, if it was an emergency, they just sent someone right away.
I told one high-ranking 911 state official what had happened, and I said I felt they should have sent someone at the very beginning of the call.
"Who would you have liked them to send?" he asked me.
"Whoever can get there first," I said.
He said, "Well, there might be someone there with a gun. And EMS isn't armed so sending EMS could put them in harm's way."
I told him that they should dispatch someone immediately – both EMS and law enforcement if necessary – and have them on the way and then find out all the facts during the time it takes for help to arrive.
He told me that, in situations like mine, "when the phone goes dead," it often takes 30 minutes or more, because "check the welfare calls" such as that can take some time.
I said there's a difference between a line going dead and someone screaming no followed by a crashing sound and no response.
"That's not a check the welfare call," I told him.
I asked him where I could find the protocols for the state for when someone should be dispatched, and he told me that there are no state rules or guidelines on when an operator should dispatch help. To a large degree it is a judgement call of the 911 operator.
So it's up to the operator – who may or may not be good at his or her job.
My editor, John Hammer. knows a lot about this type of thing and, when I told him what happened, he said that, here in Guilford County, we have an excellent 911 system. He said that here they were very good about sending out help immediately. He also said that was largely due to the efforts of the former head of Emergency Services, Charlie Porter, who's well known in this county for being adamant about quick response times.
John Hammer said he knew of a 911 call in Greensboro where they had sent a large ladder truck to respond – even though it was a medical call and not a fire. He said he found out that the reason they sent the ladder truck was because it happened to be the closest vehicle to the call.
Now that's the way it should be done.
Call me crazy and untrained and uninformed in emergency procedures, but I think that in this county, and everywhere else, the first thing they should do in an emergency is send someone; and they should sort out all the other details while help is speeding toward the scene.
That's how I think it should be every time you have an emergency or a suspected emergency: They should send out help right away – before someone dies rather than after.